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Brian Cashman says it’s “asking too much” to expect Masahiro Tanaka to be an ace

Feb 7, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

masahiro tanaka getty Getty Images

Yankees GM Brian Cashman is doing his best to temper expectations for his $175 million pitcher. Per ESPN’s Andrew Marchand, Cashman says it would be “asking too much” to expect Tanaka to perform like an ace. Instead, he sees Tanaka as “a really solid, consistent No. 3 starter.”

Cashman expects Tanaka to experience “some growing pains” transitioning from baseball in Japan to baseball in the United States. Specifically, Cashman cited pitching on five days’ rest rather than seven, a different strike zone, and stronger lineups. Yu Darvish, by all accounts a superior pitcher to Tanaka, posted a 3.90 ERA in his first year in the U.S. in 2012, but lowered it to 2.83 this past season with improvements across the board.

On January 22, the Yankees signed Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million contract which also required them to pay a $20 million posting fee to the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japan Pacific League. He was one of many big signings the Yankees made during the off-season. They also signed center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $154 million deal, catcher Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million deal, right fielder Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45 million deal, and Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $16 million deal.

  1. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Feb 7, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    David Cone’s assessment (top 5 splitfinger in the world) may be hyperbole, as most of Cone’s assessments are. But I think, if the general idea is correct, Tanaka’s fate in 2014 is largely tied to the performance of the infield defense. That could spell disaster or be quite good depending on the health of the players involved.

    While I am admittedly a homer and I understand all of the doomsday scenarios being bandied about, I also think this Yankees team has a tremendous amount of upside. I think few of the players can be expected to be average or mediocre. They will either be spectacular or disastrous. Frankly, I am OK with that. It should keep the excitement level high, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Yankees finish first or last in the division, and I think that is great. (maybe not last, that would probably not be great)

    • Uncle Charlie - Feb 8, 2014 at 10:39 AM

      Upside? From whom? Nearly every player is past their prime. You can safely say what you’ll get, this is a team destined for 85 wins.

      • Kevin S. - Feb 8, 2014 at 12:20 PM

        The upside is health. While it’s not realistic for everybody to stay healthy, especially on an older team, nobody being healthy is unlikely to repeat itself.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Feb 8, 2014 at 12:50 PM

        They were an 85 win team last year, and that was pretty much rock bottom. I think a combination of decent health and productivity (not guaranteed, but certainly upside exists) plus the team rediscovering its willingness to spend could launch them to the front of the pack.

        Good health from 6 out of 8 of Teixeira, Jeter, CC, Roberts, Pineda, Beltran and Ellsbury being healthy plus some other team’s salary dump (Cliff Lee? Matt Holliday?) and this is a 95 win team

  2. cur'68 - Feb 7, 2014 at 6:27 PM

    Watching him pitch on YouTube vids, I see a drive & drop style pitcher with an over the top release point. I think he’ll be hit. Perhaps not hard, but often enough. That big hole in the left side of the infield is going to be a problem.

    • Ben - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:12 PM

      He’s built his success on limiting walks and home runs. Not necessarily a recipe for success against big league hitters, especially given his new home park.

  3. proudlycanadian - Feb 7, 2014 at 6:40 PM

    A bit of buyers remorse by the Cashman!

    • dirtyharry1971 - Feb 8, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      the only remorse you will see is when you see the bluejay hitters trying to hit off this kid. He will win at least 15 games this year

      • proudlycanadian - Feb 8, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        !5 games of what? Tiddleywinks?

  4. uyf1950 - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:07 PM

    Cashman is doing what’s called “managing expectations”. Tanaka will be under enough pressure as it is without everyone under the sun looking for him to be an ace right out of the gate.

    • spudchukar - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:14 PM

      UYF, mon ami, sure he is trying to lower expectations and take some pressure off the young hurler, but the #3 stuff is such B.S. nobody will buy it. Had Cashman claimed the Yanks were looking for Tanaka to be a #2 guy for awhile, and then eventually move to #1 his statement would be believable.

      We all know the Yanks are blessed with an abundance of cash, but forking out 175 mil for a #3 is risible.

      • quintjs - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:23 PM

        spud – I agree completely. No one is going to believe the #3 B.S. He would be better served pointing to Darvish and Matsuzaka and saying look, lets be realistic, he will have to adjust. We think he will be a good pitcher in year one, and then as he adjusts in years two and three we will see the real Tanaka and he will be awesome.

        *I am sure the Matsuzaka comparison raised some eyebrows. I wasn’t saying he is in Darvish’s level, or that Tanaka won’t easily be better. I was just saying his best year was his 2nd year in the majors.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:25 PM

        Think about what you said: “the #3 stuff is such B.S. nobody will buy it.” If indeed nobody will buy it, is it really B.S. or just hyperbole, basically just an extravagant exaggeration? Have a good day.

      • spudchukar - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:53 PM

        UYF, mi amigo, I am pretty sure extravagant exaggeration is synonymous with B.S.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Feb 8, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        He is #3 on the Yankees for 2014. I think CC and Kuroda have earned it. I am sure the expectation is for Tanaka to take over as team ace, but it is not necessary this season. Perhaps this statement was as much to declare the pecking order to the players as to the press.

  5. undeadjesus - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    This has “epic fail” written all over it already. Most casual Yankee fans think they’re getting the next Darvish and when they start to realize that Tanaka isn’t that, they’re going to tear him to shreds.

  6. Glenn - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:16 PM

    If Cashman believes what he is saying, then why did he give Tanaka ace money?

    • 18thstreet - Feb 8, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      Completely agree with this. Matt Garza can be expected to pitch like a No. 3, and no one’s offering him Tanaka money.

  7. provguard - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:31 PM

    Funny…. Cashman trying to substantiate an idiot move???

  8. happytwinsfan - Feb 7, 2014 at 8:44 PM

    cashman’s statement is probably informed and accurate. the answer to the natural next question, then why did you give him ace money, is unanswered and obvious, “because we’re the yankees and we can”.

  9. baseballtrashtalkin - Feb 7, 2014 at 8:47 PM

    Reblogged this on Baseball Trash Talkin.

  10. dinofrank60 - Feb 7, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    Then why are you paying him like an ace, Brian?

  11. bounce028 - Feb 7, 2014 at 8:56 PM

    He’s a pretty expensive third starter. He has Dice-K written all over him in my opinion.

  12. chiadam - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:03 PM

    He doesn’t have the versatility or power of Darvish, but he does have a sinker. I’ve seen better from MLB pitchers making a lot less, but whatever. It’s the Yankees issue now. And yes, Cashman just said he spent $175,000,000 on a solid number three.

    • Old Gator - Feb 8, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      How quickly they forget. There used to be a pitcher by the name of Maddux who didn’t have the “power” of a Darvish or a Hallady but he was smart, had terrific control, and owned the plate. Tanaka managed to put up spectacular numbers in the same league as Darvish doing things his way. Whereas it’s true that the Borg can always say “because we can” when absurd numbers are involved, it’s also true that these are not stupid nor desperate people. Adding McCann, Elsbury and Beltran as well as Tanaka were all smart moves. I think that in balance, this is a better team than last year, even with Cano heading west. They’ve certainly still got issues – no point in dragging out the inflield again – but they also might not be done. Can they finish ahead of the Beanbags? Probably not, but they can certainly contend for a wild card with the team they’ve got. This is especially true if Tanaka, who is a pure pro and is surely not sitting home playing Ninja Turtles on his home gaming center but likely poring over reports, stats and videos of the hitters he will be facing, “adjusts” within a reasonably short period of time.

  13. realgone2 - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:52 PM

    is this the early stages of damage control?

  14. nolasoxfan2012 - Feb 8, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    What’s amazing is that Cash-man probably could have used the Tanaka money to sign Garza (4/50) and Ubaldo (? but probably comp to Garza), and maybe even some help in the bullpen, and still have had $50-75M more left over, with a much shorter commitment of years and much less risk. Either one of those guys could be a solid number three with the potential to be more, and the Yankees still have some big holes. If Tanaka fails to develop into an ace-level guy, this deal makes zero sense, regardless of what the Cash-man says.

  15. 18thstreet - Feb 8, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    Not a rhetorical question: since Tanaka (like Dice-K) had success pitching every seventh day and because Cashman believes that pitching every 5th day will be an adjustment, why not pitch him even 7th day during the regular season? It’s not like it’s impossible to adjust the rotation around it.

    • genericcommenter - Feb 8, 2014 at 4:27 PM

      Probably don’t want to pay him $1 million per start. They want to keep it reasonable- like $700,000.

      • 18thstreet - Feb 8, 2014 at 6:21 PM

        I’m no expert on this, but I seem to recall that these guys (i.e., Japanese pitchers) often throw 9 innings in Japan. Per inning, the ratio might look better.

  16. jpalughi823 - Feb 8, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    idiotic statement of the year *drumroll*

  17. yordo - Feb 8, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    Disastrous contract for a #3, eh?

  18. eatitfanboy - Feb 9, 2014 at 12:59 PM

    Every other GM in baseball must be thrilled that Cashman just pegged the asking price of a solid #3 starter at $22M a year.

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