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January 23, 2014

Overthinking It

Several Stray Thoughts About the Masahiro Tanaka Signing

by Ben Lindbergh


R.J. Anderson wrote the rapid response to the news that Masahiro Tanaka had agreed to a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees. That's where you’ll find all the juicy details on the player and the contract, which you should want to take a look at. This is where you’ll find a few other thoughts that crossed my mind as I digested the signing, as laid out below.

The $189 million mark, in memoriam
December 4, 2011. That’s the day when we first heard, via the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, that the Yankees were determined to keep their 2014 payroll below $189 million, which they blew by in adding Tanaka. This is how long ago that was: Mike Trout’s career OPS was .672, and Alex Rodriguez and Randy Levine were still penpals. Granted, Steinbrenner never technically guaranteed that the team’s payroll would sink below the luxury tax threshold, but he came close, saying, “I’m looking at it as a goal, but my goals are normally considered a requirement.”

For the Yankees, living life under 189 never made sense, but it seems even sillier in retrospect, after years of columns and reports and “Yankees Payroll Trackers” were rendered irrelevant in one Supermarket Sweep-style dash through the free agent aisle. So now we’re left to wonder: What was the original intent?

Was it a negotiating tactic, the team’s latest specious attempt to cry fiscal restraint? If so, it wasn’t an effective one, since no one who mattered was buying it, and it’s hard to think of a recent deal in which the Yankees got a clear discount (save for the special circumstances surrounding the Hiroki Kuroda contract). From Sherman’s first post on the $189 million mark:

“We get the eye roll when we tell teams or agents or the media [that the Yankees have financial parameters],” one team official said. They don’t have to believe us. They will see with our actions.”

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