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Boston Red Sox Impacted by New York Yankees Signing of Masahiro Tanaka

January 22nd, 2014 at 10:33 AM
By Ron Juckett

'Eagles - Back' photo (c) 2008, ElCapitanBSC - license:

The New York Yankees Wednesday landed their white whale, Masahiro Tanaka.

The reported details are a seven-year deal that will pay the 25-year-old Japanese pitcher $155 million. The Yankees also threw in an opt-out clause after four years. Potentially, Tanaka can be a free agent again at 29.

Ladies and Gentleman, New York is going to pay a pitcher who has yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues an average of $22.142 million a season for the rest of this decade. The Yankees knew they needed starting pitching and spent millions more than we all figured to get it.

If Tanaka comes as advertised, the Yankees have significantly closed the pitching gap between themselves and the Boston Red Sox.

Their front three starters heading into 2014 will be CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Tanaka while the defending world champions counter with Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz.

On the surface for New York, this move reeks of desperation. The reality tells us, however, that they absolutely had to make. The Yankees have the resources and have nothing on the farm that can possibly make the immediate impact Tanaka can.

For the Red Sox, there are a couple things to watch out for.

First, there is absolutely no way Boston could have made such an aggressive bid without clearing out substantial payroll. Yes, Ryan Dempster, Jake Peavy and Lackey are poised to make $43 million combined in 2014, but you would need to shed two of those three to make up the difference. Ditching Dempster would be easy, Peavy and Lackey? Not so much.

Even with the four-year opt-out, signing Tanaka at that price for Boston would have been a massive overpay. Essentially, he would have come in on day one being the highest paid player on the team by $6 million, Mike Napoli’s two-year deal at $16 million per season is currently the team’s highest.

The other thing to pay attention to is going to be what a contract extension looks like now for Jon Lester. Tanaka, a solid No. 3 starter that could blossom into an ace if everything goes right, will make $9 million more this year than the Boston ace.

The conventional wisdom a month ago was Lester would land a five-year extension at around $100 million. Expect that number now to be closer to $125 million, or the Red Sox offering a shorter base deal with vesting options in the $23-$25 million per season range.

It does not mean that the two sides will not get a deal done, but the leverage the Red Sox had immediately after the World Series is gone. Lester is not in the Clayton Kershaw-class of a $30 million per year deal, but his experience should net him a deal a bit better in average than Tanaka.

In the end, the Yankees landed their top target. How the dynamics of the American League East change is now directly on the right arm of the young Mr. Tanaka.

*All salary information courtesy of Baseball Reference.

Tags: Baseball, Boston, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Masahiro Tanaka, MLB, New York Yankees

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