Yankees sign Tanaka to seven-year deal
Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka of Rakuten Eagles speaks before the press after meeting with his team's president in Sendai in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan on December 17, 2013
"I'm relieved that it's done," Tanaka, 25, who went unbeaten last season, told his first news conference since he signed the major leagues' highest contract for an Asia-born player on Wednesday.
The right-hander went 24-0 with a 1.27 earned-run average and 183 strikeouts with only 32 walks in 212 inning for the Japan Series champion Rakuten Eagles.
The Yankees spent another $20 million in a posting fee to the Sendai-based Eagles to obtain Tanaka, who was sought by several US clubs and considered by most teams to be the best pitcher available.
Asked about his objectives this season, Tanaka told reporters: "The world number one. I will go there to be a force to gain the world number one. I hope to contribute to the team's victory."
Tanaka, who reportedly has an opt-out clause after four years in the contract, spent seven seasons with Rakuten. He debuted at age 18 and went 99-35 with a 2.30 earned-run average in 175 games while striking out 1,238 batters over 1,315 innings.
His deal ranks as the fifth-highest for a pitcher in Major League Baseball history, trailing the seven-year deals for Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers at $215 million, Detroit's Justin Verlander at $180 million, Seattle's Felix Hernandez at $175 million and his new Yankee teammate, C.C. Sabathia, at $161 million.
Tanaka fills out a Yankee starting rotation that includes Japan's Hiroki Kuroda, Dominican Ivan Nova and Sabathia.
During the news conference, Tanaka said he wants to maintain his own pitching style.
"It will feel different from the past, but I don't want to lose the sense of myself," he said. "I hope that I can maintain my performance on the mound."
The Yankees and other major league clubs were faced with a Friday deadline to reach a deal with Tanaka or see him return to Japan for another season.
With the signing, the Yankees will soar well beyond the $189 million in salaries they had hoped to spend for their 2014 campaign.
The Yankees won only 85 games last season, finishing in third place in the American League East division. But they have added free agents Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury to the lineup in the off-season and with Tanaka have bolstered their pitching to return to contention for a playoff spot.
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