Masahiro Tanaka's wife preferred the Golden State. In the end, Tanaka opted for the green instead.
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Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees Wednesday, the largest contract given to a Japanese player in history. The 25-year-old was believed to have at least five offers of over $100 million on the table, including proposals from the Dodgers, Cubs, Diamondbacks and White Sox. Ultimately, Tanaka said he chose the Yankees because they offered him the "highest evaluation" and the chance to achieve the ultimate goal.
"I'm going there to win the World Series," Tanaka said at his press conference. "I can't wait to get to the pitcher's mound at Yankee Stadium."
Tanaka was the first big-name player to go through MLB's new posting system, and the difference was noticeable. Just two years ago Yu Darvish, a pitcher generally considered to have similar if not slightly superior stuff than Tanaka, received six years and $56 million from the Rangers at the same age.
The nearly $100 million divide exists largely due to the $51.7 million the Rangers had to pay for the right to negotiate exclusively with Darvish; under the new rules, any team willing to post the $20 million fee could negotiate with Tanaka. The result was Tanaka landing not only the largest contract for a Japanese player but also the fifth-largest for any pitcher in MLB history.
Despite the astronomical figures, expectations of Tanaka for the 2014 season need to be tempered slightly. Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball league last season, but MLB is a serious step up in class and Yankee Stadium isn't the friendliest ballpark for right-handed pitchers. It's also worth noting that, despite good stuff, Tanaka struck out "just" 7.8 batters per nine innings last season. And he's also been highly taxed for a 25-year-old, averaging 188 innings per season over his seven professional seasons in Japan.
That's not to say Tanaka won't be a valuable fantasy commodity this year. A talent big enough to draw nine-figure offers from multiple big-market teams won't have trouble missing bats and suppressing runs at the major league level. And as a member of the Yankees Tanaka will also be in line for his fair share of wins as well. MLB teams were willing to enter into a bidding war for the Japanese star, but fantasy owners should be cautious of entering into a similar showdown at the draft table.
Editor's Note: Find out the secret strategies of nine-time national champion, Larry Schechter. Order: Winning Fantasy Baseball
Garza, Brewers Closing In On Agreement
Tanaka's decision was expected to open the door for some of the other big-ticket free agent starters to find jobs, and one of those dominoes fell Thursday -- maybe.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported Thursday afternoon the Brewers and right-hander Matt Garza had agreed on a four-year, $52 million deal, but another tweet -- from the Brewers' own Twitter account -- pumped the brakes on the situation.
"Despite media reports, negotiations between the Brewers and Matt Garza are ongoing, but there is no deal yet," the Brewers tweeted.
Assuming the two sides get their differences ironed out, the deal should benefit both parties. The Brewers desperately needed to bolster a thin pitching rotation and Garza returns to the National League, where he posted a 3.17 ERA in 11 starts while with the Cubs last season. The holdup in the contract negotiations isn't believed to be medical -- good news for a 30-year-old with a history of elbow issues -- so a resolution to the situation should be known soon.
Balfour Returns To Tampa
Grant Balfour is no stranger to contract holdups, but the Aussie finally found a home in a familiar place Thursday.
Balfour had a two-year, $15 million agreement with the Orioles voided earlier this offseason after the team took issue with his physical, but the Rays gave the 36-year-old a two-year, $12 million deal to return to south Florida. Balfour spent the better part of four seasons with the Rays from 2007 to 2010, posting a 3.33 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 203 innings of work.
In Tampa, Balfour will step in as the team's closer after former closer Fernando Rodney departed for free agency. The Rays have numerous other late-game options in former closers Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo, as well as hard-throwing lefty Jake McGee and newly acquired Brad Boxberger, so Balfour likely won't have the longest leash in the league. But there's no reason to think he won't hold onto the job if he's performing, and with a team like the Rays he's got a good chance at again being one of the more productive closers in the game next season.
Balfour is known as a fiery competitor on the field and took issue with the Orioles' claims related to his physical. When asked about facing the Orioles this year, which he and the Rays will do 19 times, Balfour wasn't giving anything away.
"I guess you'll have to tune in."
Oh, we will.
Hot Stove Quick Hits: With the $189 million luxury tax threshold in the rearview mirror, the Yankees are said to be considering Stephen Drew for their middle infield. The free agent, who would come at the expense of a draft pick, could start for the Yankees at second base this season before shifting back to shortstop in 2015 following Derek Jeter's inevitable departure, in theory ... the Red Sox signed Grady Sizemore to a one-year, $750,000 contract that could end up being worth as much as $6 million after incentives. Sizemore would need to beat out Jackie Bradley for the center field job this spring and remain a productive player the entire season to earn all $6 million ... Matt Harvey (elbow) is hoping to begin playing catch by the end of February. Harvey won't be back in 2014 -- despite his desire to return this season -- but if all goes well with his recovery from Tommy John surgery he should be ready to roll once 2015 arrives ... Mariners pitcher Stephen Pryor (lat) isn't progressing as quickly in his return from August surgery. Mariners trainer Rob Nodine said an optimistic timetable would be a return by the end of May ... Jon Lester is optimistic a contract extension with the Red Sox could happen during spring training and intimated he would be open to giving the club a deal to stay. He's currently set to become a free agent after the upcoming season ... Marlins general manager Dan Jennings said he'd like to lock up Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term extension. Stanton's been openly displeased with some of the organization's moves in recent years, so it's unclear how receptive the 24-year-old would be to such a deal ... with Balfour off the market, Fernando Rodney remains as the most established closing option still available. The Orioles have had talks with Rodney in the past, but conflicting reports exist about the team's interest in the right-hander currently ... the Marlins, doing nothing to shed their bottom-feeding image, have interest in Yankees castoff Vernon Wells.