|New Yankee Masahiro Tanaka (AP-Yonhap News)|
New York capped an offseason spending spree by agreeing Wednesday to a $155 million, seven-year contract with prized Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Following just the second season in 19 years that didn’t include a playoff appearance, the Yankees flexed their economic might and committed $438 million to four free agents.
Tanaka joined catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran on a revamped roster missing long-time All-Stars Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Robinson Cano.
And in addition to the deal with the 25-year-old right-hander, the Yankees must pay a $20 million posting fee to Tanaka’s Japanese club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
“Anybody that questioned our commitment to winning is going to have to question themselves,” Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner said during a telephone interview with the Associated Press.
Big league teams had until Friday to reach an agreement with Tanaka, who was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year as the Golden Eagles won the Japan Series title. Arizona, the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston all said they were among the failed bidders.
Still, the Yankees have ample uncertainty ― especially in an AL East where they compete with World Series champion Boston. And especially with a veteran team that saw 21 players go on the disabled list last year.
David Robertson appears set to inherit the closer’s role from the retired Rivera, and New York must try to make up the offense lost when Cano left for a $240 million, 10-year deal with Seattle. Alex Rodriguez is suspended for the entire season and 39-year-old shortstop Derek Jeter has played just 17 games since October 2012.
“I think the entire infield is certainly something that people will focus on,” New York general manager Brian Cashman said. “What’s Brian Roberts going to be? What’s Derek Jeter going to be as he comes back from his injury? What’s Mark Teixeira going to be at first base as he comes back from his wrist? Can Kelly Johnson secure and handle on a consistent basis third base?”