Major League Baseball
Rosenthal: Tanaka to Yankees restores natural order in baseball
Major League Baseball

Rosenthal: Tanaka to Yankees restores natural order in baseball

Published Jan. 22, 2014 11:45 a.m. ET

Good to see the Yankees acting like the Yankees again.

No more fretting over the $189 million luxury-tax threshold. No more misplaced fiscal restraint.

The Yankees had to have Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, and they got him. They got him with a total outlay of $175 million for seven years -- $155 million in salary, $20 million in posting fee. But given the uncertain state of their rotation, they simply could not lose him to the Cubs or even the Dodgers.

The contract alone is the fifth-largest for a pitcher in major league history. The total outlay matches what the Mariners gave Felix Hernandez. And the Yankees also gave Tanaka the ability to opt out after four years and become a free agent again at 29.


You might ask, why did the Yankees spend the past two years talking about the tens of millions they would save by staying under the luxury-tax threshold -- and passing on several high-priced players in the process?

Well, never mind all that.

This is business, and the Yankees' business was slipping. They missed the playoffs last season for only the second time since the 1994-95 strike. Ratings were down. Attendance was down. The team was old, prone to injury and not terribly interesting.

Enter catcher Brian McCann. Enter center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Enter right fielder Carlos Beltran. And now, enter Tanaka.

Four huge free agents. Four contracts worth a combined $438 million.

And suddenly, the Yankees are back.

They are not a World Series favorite, not when they've got Brian Roberts at second, Kelly Johnson at third and no Mariano Rivera in the bullpen.

Heck, we don't even know how Tanaka's stuff will translate in the majors, or if his huge backlog of innings at a young age will cause him to wear down.

When you think about it, the rotation is still a question. CC Sabathia is coming off a down year, Hiroki Kuroda is about to turn 39 and Ivan Nova is not exactly an Andy Pettitte-type pillar. The entire bunch, including Tanaka, will need to contend with the powerful lineups in the AL East.

Keep in mind, though, that the Yankees surely are not finished.

They could sign another starter. They could sign a free-agent reliever such as Grant Balfour to augment David Robertson in the late innings. They could sign free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew to fortify their infield and provide a viable alternative to Derek Jeter, if necessary. They could do a lot of things because if they're going to exceed the threshold by $10 million, they might as well exceed it by $50 million.

Fans of low-revenue teams, in particular, will complain about the rich getting richer, and they of course will have a point. As always, the disparity between the haves and have-nots will be an issue in collective bargaining when the current labor agreement expires after the 2016 season.

Other than increased revenue sharing, though, there is no simple overhaul for baseball's economic structure, which -- unlike the NFL's -- relies more on revenue generated locally than nationally. The players' union will never allow a salary cap, and as fans of other sports can attest, a cap creates its own problems.

You know what, though?

It isn't necessarily bad when the Yankees and Dodgers are the big, bad wolves of the sport -- particularly when their $200 million payrolls are no guarantee of success.

The Yankees need to be the Yankees -- for their own sake, the sake of their fans and yes, for the sake of Yankee haters everywhere. This is not a team that should be getting outbid by the Pirates for catcher Russell Martin, as it was last offseason. This is a team that should flex its financial muscle at every turn, particularly when -- ahem -- its farm system is perennially lacking.

Good to see the Yankees acting like the Yankees again.

About time.


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