NY Yankees sign Tanaka to seven-year deal
January 24, 2014, 12:06 am TWN
TOKYO--Star Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka on Thursday vowed to help bring the world championship to the New York Yankees after striking a seven-year Major League Baseball deal worth US$155 million with the U.S. club.
"I'm relieved that it's done," Tanaka, 25, who went unbeaten last season, told his first news conference since he signed the major leagues' highest contract for an Asian-born player on Wednesday.
The right-hander went 24-0 with a 1.27 earned-run average and 183 strikeouts with only 32 walks in 212 inning for the Japan Series champion Rakuten Eagles.
The Yankees spent another US$20 million in a posting fee to the Sendai-based Eagles to obtain Tanaka, who was sought by several U.S. clubs and considered by most teams to be the best pitcher available.
Asked about his objectives this season, Tanaka told reporters: "The world number one. I will go there to be a force to gain the world number one. I hope to contribute to the team's victory."
Tanaka, who reportedly has an opt-out clause after four years in the contract, spent seven seasons with Rakuten. He debuted at age 18 and went 99-35 with a 2.30 earned-run average in 175 games while striking out 1,238 batters over 1,315 innings.
His deal ranks as the fifth-highest for a pitcher in Major League Baseball history, trailing the seven-year deals for Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers at US$215 million, Detroit's Justin Verlander at US$180 million, Seattle's Felix Hernandez at US$175 million and his new Yankee teammate, C.C. Sabathia, at US$161 million.
Tanaka fills out a Yankee starting rotation that includes Japan's Hiroki Kuroda, Dominican Ivan Nova and Sabathia.
During the news conference, Tanaka said he wants to maintain his own pitching style.
"It will feel different from the past, but I don't want to lose the sense of myself," he said. "I hope that I can maintain my performance on the mound."
The Yankees and other major league clubs were faced with a Friday deadline to reach a deal with Tanaka or see him return to Japan for another season.
With the signing, the Yankees will soar well beyond the US$189 million in salaries they had hoped to spend for their 2014 campaign.
The Yankees won only 85 games last season, finishing in third place in the American League East division. But they have added free agents Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury to the lineup in the off-season and with Tanaka have bolstered their pitching to return to contention for a playoff spot.