If you look at all the New York Yankees’ acquisitions this offseason, the best will probably turn out to be the most recent one.
We all know the importance of pitching and signing right-hander Masahiro Tanaka could prove to be a season-saver for the Yankees. Tanaka pitched as well, if not better, in his last few years in Japan, than Yu Darvish did when he was there.
For all the talk about the adjustment process pitchers coming over from Japan must make, like pitching every fifth day and so forth, plenty of pitchers have come to the United States and done very well.
In the American League last season, three of the top 11 ERAs were compiled by Japanese pitchers with Hisashi Iwakuma third, Darvish fourth and Hiroki Kuroda 11th.
Will Tanaka pitch like an ace? Maybe not, but I expect he’ll be plenty good enough and his 30-plus starts will be huge for a Yankees team that is showing its age.
Earlier this week - after the Tanaka signing - several fans in the comments section here posted opinions that the Yankees have plenty of holes and questions despite all their spending the last few months.
While New York signed Tanaka, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran to free agent contracts totaling $438 million, will that be enough to offset some other possible issues?
CC Sabathia went 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA last year. After the All-Star break, Sabathia pitched to an ERA of 6.08. Kuroda, after the break last season, went 3-7 with a 4.25 ERA.
New York’s rotation of Sabathia, Tanaka, Kuroda, Ivan Nova and David Phelps will make a total of $64.8 million next season. The Orioles rotation of Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and, let’s say Kevin Gausman fifth, will earn a projected $11 million combined.
The Yankees infield will be counting on Derek Jeter, who played just 17 games last year, and Mark Teixeira, who played just 15 games. While Jeter hit .316 in 2012 at age 38, Teixeira has seen his OPS decline for five straight seasons. The other projected infield starters right now are Brian Roberts at second and Kelly Johnson, who hit .235 for Tampa Bay, at third base.
The Yankees offense will get a big boost from Ellsbury, Beltran and McCann, but it was an offense that ranked 10th in the AL in runs and 13th in OPS last year. Their pitching staff ranked eighth in ERA at 3.94, ahead of the Orioles, but their starters produced just six more quality starts than Baltimore in 2013.
By the way, did I mention the Yankees, despite all their spending, lost their best player in Robinson Cano and closer in Mariano Rivera, who retired?
New York’s payroll was $228 million last season and that was the sixth year in a row the Yankees have gone over the $200 million mark.
The Yankees have done this winter what the Orioles haven’t so far - make key pickups and spent significant dollars.
But with some of the questions discussed here, are they much better than last season’s 85-77 team?
As Buck Showalter says, “Our curiosity will be satisfied.” We’re going to find out how good they are over the grind of the 162-game season. I think the Tanaka pickup is going to prove to be their best one.
But, like the Orioles, New York has some questions of its own. If an O’s fan is not sold on the Yankees right now, is that just wishful thinking or the rivalry talking or does New York have some issues that could derail its pursuit of another AL East title?