Yesterday when Brian Cashman was asked about Masahiro Tanaka, one of his high profile big money acquisitions from this offseason he responded by saying;
We view him to be a really solid, consistent No. 3 starter. If we get more than that, all the better. He’s got a great deal of ability. There is definitely some unknown because of the transition. We scouted him extensively. Certainly, we look forward to adding him into the mix with the rest of our rotation. That’s what we look at him as: A solid, potential No. 3 starter in the big leagues.
Yankees fans, this is absolutely not the case. There is no way that the Yankees invested a seven year $155 million contact in a pitcher that they view as a number three starter, no team would give a middle of the rotation pitcher anywhere near those terms. I understand, and appreciate, the fact that Brian Cashman is not trying to heap tremendous pressure and expectations upon a player that has never thrown a single pitch in a Major League game, but the contract that was given to Tanaka has already placed those pressures upon him. This type of signing can shape the fan’s perspective on Cashman for a very long time. If Tanaka fails to live up to the contract Cashman will likely pay the price for it with his job.
What would it take to live up to this contract though? Regardless of the Cashman quote Tanaka has been brought in by the Yankees franchise to be one thing and one thing only, the ace of their pitching staff, anything less and the signing will go down as a bust, there’s no way around that. Even if he has a long and productive career for the Yanks that will not be enough, he has to be a star. In my opinion for Tanaka to justify the investment he must produce 15+ wins consistently over the life of the contract. He can not be a 12-14 game winner, that is not enough. I know that wins and losses is not the be-all-end-all stat for pitchers anymore, but ultimately he’s going to have to produce victories for the team, that’s the bottom line. The other factor that must be considered here is that the Yankees desperately need him to be an ace right away. CC Sabathia is not the pitcher he once was, Hiroki Kuroda tailed off at the end of last season and there doesn’t seem to be a future ace coming through the pipeline. Cashamn may not say it in public, but he knows Tanaka has to be the anchor of the rotation going forward.
I have no idea what to expect from Tanaka, that’s what has fueled my intrigue with him throughout this process, but if the Yankees want to return to championship contention they will need him to be worth every penny of his contract.