The Yankees introduced the final piece of their $465-million offseason yesterday, unveiling pitcher Masahiro Tanaka at a news conference that featured nearly 200 media members, the most since the team introduced Hideki Matsui in 2003.
General manager Brian Cashman started the news conference by bluntly stating, “This is big.”
After describing how the Yankees extensively scouted Tanaka dating back to 2007, Cashman said, “Thankfully to the Steinbrenner family, they put the Yankees in the position to bring him to Major League Baseball, to test those abilities, and be a part of a group of players and teammates that will hopefully make this town proud for the next number of years.”
The group of players that Cashman alluded to includes the familiar faces, such as Derek Jeter, along with some new ones — offseason acquisitions Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann.
Tanaka, after accepting his cap and No. 19 pinstripe jersey from manager Joe Girardi, stepped behind the microphone. “Hello,” he said in English, with a chuckle. “My name is Masahiro Tanaka, I’m very happy to be a Yankee.”
While answering questions through a translator, Tanaka was prompted about what his No. 1 goal for his career is. He responded, “To win the world championship.”
Tanaka will have a lot to prove after inking a seven-year, $155 million deal this offseason. Although he has never thrown a pitch in the major leagues, he was given the fifth-largest contract for a free-agent pitcher in history.
The 25-year-old was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. His career 2.30 ERA and 53 complete games would both rank first in MLB among active pitchers, with Clayton Kershaw (2.60 ERA) and new teammate CC Sabathia (37 complete games) behind him.
None of it will matter if Tanaka flops in New York, however, as he is under intense pressure to perform at a high level and bring a World Series championship back to the Bronx. The right-hander is the projected No. 3 starter for the Yankees this season, with the potential to one day become the ace of the staff.