BY KEVIN JONES, STAFF WRITER
The big news in the baseball world this week was when Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka made the decision to sign with the New York Yankees for a seven-year deal worth $155 million.
For the past seven years, Tanaka has pitched for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, who play in the Japan Pacific League. Last season, Tanaka had a 24-0 record with an ERA of 1.27 and 183 strikeouts.
Although at times there were as many as 10 teams interested in signing Tanaka, the contenders for Tanaka were a smaller group. The main contenders included the New York Yankees, the Seattle Mariners, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Chicago White Sox, the Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Behind the plate, the Yankees signed Brian McCann and in the outfield, the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Last year with their respective clubs, McCann hit .256 with 20 home runs and 56 RBI’s, Ellsbury hit .298 with nine home runs, 57 RBIs and 52 stolen bases and Beltran hit .296 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs.
The Yankees pitching staff needed help after losing Andy Petitte to retirement and Phil Hughes, who signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Twins. These two pitchers accounted for 231 innings pitched in 2013. Of the remaining pitchers, only two had an ERA under four last year, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova.
Susquehanna senior Aaron Shuettler said that he expected the Yankees to sign Tanaka, explaining that he felt the Yankees needed to improve their starting pitching and that the Yankees could outbid any other team.
One unknown is how quickly Tanaka will adjust to pitching in the Major Leagues, but Shuettler said that he believes that Tanaka will not have trouble adjusting because his pitches will translate well to Major League Baseball.
“I think the addition of Tanaka lessens the load on the other starters and gives them the chance to perform at their best,” Shuettler said.
Susquehanna baseball head coach Denny Bowers said that even with the Tanaka signing, the Yankees are not favorites to win the division. Bowers said that the Yankees needed pitching, a need which Tanaka fills, but the Yankees lost Cano and the team is older than last year, thanks to the signings of McCann and Beltran.
Bowers agreed with Shuettler and said: “The fact that he throws two pitches is most impressive. He won’t try to fool you, just beat you.”