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In signing Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees' trump card had better be an ace

Guess we can all stop wondering what the New York Yankees are going to do with the $25 million annual increase in their national television revenues. They spent almost that much per year on Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, if you combine their reported seven-year, $155 million deal with the $20 million posting fee they must pay to Japan’s Rakuten Golden Eagles to pry him out of his existing contract.

That’s just crazy, of course, but why should anyone be surprised?

Not only did the Yankees get that boost from the new national TV contracts that kick in this season, but they also will save about that much if Alex Rodriguez and his lawyers don’t find a federal judge to strike down his one-year Biogenesis suspension.

And, really, did anyone ever buy into the silly notion that the Yankees were going to scale down their profligate spending?

There are two ways to look at this deal. Either the Yankees have just bought their way back to the top of the American League East standings or they have painted themselves into another financial corner like they did with A-Rod.

Tanaka certainly appears to be the real deal. The guy went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan last year, so he comes to America with the most impressive resume of any Japanese player who has made the switch to the major leagues. He also is an old-school innings machine who has pitched 58 complete games in his career and thrown 18 shutouts.

Time will tell whether the Yankees bought a perennial Cy Young Award winner or a guy who already has put too many innings on his 25-year-old right arm. Either way, they can certainly afford to take that chance.

Their latest mega-signing again illustrates the huge economic advantage that a small group of super-rich teams hold over the rest of the major leagues, but the Yankees finished the 2013 season tied with the Orioles for third place in the AL East and had to fend them off in the Division Series the year before.

Though the Orioles have come under criticism this winter for not making a major free-agent acquisition, they were never a candidate to sign Tanaka and could not be expected to gamble that kind of money on a pitcher, much less one who has never thrown a pitch in the American major leagues.

That said, the fact that the Yankees have made such a dynamic move to bolster their starting rotation should provide even more incentive to the Orioles to make a play for one of the top starting pitchers that remain available on the free-agent market.

By comparison, all of them look like bargains now.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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