Masahiro Tanaka: A Contract That’s Being Honorably Fulfilled

Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees Starter Photo Credit:

Masahiro Tanaka has honorably fulfilled his contract with the New York Yankees. In this era of baseball, that’s a feat not to be underestimated…

In 2014, Masahiro Tanaka signed on with the New York Yankees for a contract worth $155 million over seven years. Pitching to an average annual salary of $22 million, Tanaka has earned every penny of the money he has been paid. What’s rare in this instance is the Yankees have received equal value for every penny they’ve spent on Tanaka.

Roger Clemens, The Yankees $17 Milllion Man (Photo:
Roger Clemens, The Yankees $17 Milllion Man (Photo:

You can start in any number of places to find contracts given to pitchers that have blown up in their team’s faces. You can name Jordan Zimmermann, (1-8 7.13 ERA 2019) starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, who was awarded a two-year contract for $50 million – a year removed from Tommy John surgery. Or, how about the six-year $126 million deal the Chicago Cubs gave out to Yu Darvish (5-9, 4.37 ERA since then)?

We can take it closer to home too and the one-year deal the Yankees inked with Roger Clemens in 2007 worth almost $19 million. The equivalent of one million dollars for each start he made that season while going 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA.

How much would you pay a starting pitcher to go 34-35 for you, with a 4.79 ERA in 98 starts? In 2008, the Yankees thought that was worth $82.5 million over five seasons – the contract given to A.J. Burnett.

Masahiro Tanaka – An Honorable With An Honorable Record

Throw that book away when it comes to Masahiro Tanaka. Now in his sixth season with the Yankees, Tanaka has won nearly two of every three decisions over that span (73-40, .646, 3.74 ERA). Averaging 26 starts, Tanaka has already made 25 starts for the Yankees in 2019.

A workhorse as defined by this era of baseball only, Tanaka has averaged 160+ innings per season. He’ll top that easily this year. In the postseason, Tanaka is 3-2 with a sparkling 1.50 ERA.

Not too shabby for a pitcher who ranks as only the 24th highest-paid player in the league this year. Masahiro Tanaka’s salary is dwarfed by Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, David Price, and Max Scherzer ($43.6 million), all of whom are pulling down $30 million or more this year.

Year to year, Masahiro Tanaka has been the steadiest starting pitcher the Yankees have. With little or no fanfare and still held back from the general public (a language barrier), Tanaka has paid his dues with the Yankees via a contract benefiting both sides, a rarity these days in baseball.

Masahiro Tanaka delivers a pitch at London Stadium 6/29/2019) (Photo:
Masahiro Tanaka delivers a pitch at London Stadium 6/29/2019) (Photo:

Is Masahiro Tanaka on his way to the Hall Of Fame? No. Will he receive louder cheers than Andy Pettitte when he is introduced at the Yankee’s annual Old Timer’s Day celebration? No. Will, the Yankees, offer him a new one or two year contract in 2021 when is only 32? Ah, there’s a good one for you.

Drawing from his Japanese culture, Masahiro Tanaka prides himself on being an honorable man. A requirement in his native homeland, he has carried that trait with him throughout his tenure with the Yankees. When Tanaka stinks up the joint, he tells you he did. And when he spins a gem, he puts his teammates out there first.

Aaron Boone’s Choice – Playoffs Game One?

Erratic at times this year, Tanaka has struggled with his split-finger fastball. It’s his out pitch, and without it, he’s forced to go to his secondary pitches.

Tanaka has worked hard to “find” his split-finger, and the results are beginning to show. In his last two starts, including a win over the Cleveland Indians last night, Tanaka has yielded only seven hits, and two runs over 14 innings pitched.

Although never referred to as the “Ace” of the Yankees staff, it’s reasonable to think Aaron Boone would have no reservations about naming Masahiro Tanaka as the Yankees starter in Game One throughout the playoffs.

A master in his chosen art, Masahiro Tanaka has only just begun…

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.

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