Thursday, December 26, 2013

Can the Yankees afford to sign Masahiro Tanaka, or can they afford not to sign him?

By now, everybody - even the Martians who were conquered by Santa Claus - knows that Masahiro Tanaka, the 24-0 savior from Japan, is coming to America. It'll cost $20 million to get his agent's phone number, and the bidding will run to the North Pole and back. We're talking Mariah Carey: 1993 kind of money. And once again, the Yankees could be donning their famous Evil Empire costumes.

Somewhere, inside his super-secret Astro-pod, Hal Steinbrenner will crunch the numbers on his slide rule and decide if it's in the Yankees' best interests to maintain the the $189 million payroll "goal" for this year. Because without Tanaka, the team goes to Tampa in February with David Phelps and Vidal Nino vying for fourth starter, and by July, the YES Network ratings could be falling somewhere behind the Pillsbury Bake-Off regionals and syndicated reruns of "She's the Boss."

But if Hal signs Tanaka, the 2013 Yankee austerity program will be filed away a mirage, a drug hallucination. We cried "Beggars can't be choosers" while Russel Martin and a cast of free agents walked to to other teams - and the Redsocks won a World Series - for a target we've now decided wasn't worth the effort. It's like a fat lady who vowed to lose 100 pounds for her wedding: She loses 50, feels great, and a month before the ceremony runs out and eats a pizza truck.

I hate to beat the 2013 dead horse here. What's done is done. Last winter, the Yankees made a brief attempt to change their ways - to not always be the MLB franchise incarnation of Chris Farley as "Tommy Boy." Instead of signing everybody and everything - while failing to develop our own players - the team would practice austerity, cutting payroll and chopping the absurd amount of luxury tax money that it was paying each year. It made sense. It was a good idea.

Then the disaster of 2013 happened. If not for the return of A-Rod and a brief (and unexplained) surge from Alfonso Soriano, the Yankees could have fallen out of the one-game playoff race by early September. As it was, ratings tanked. Attendance crashed. And the team basically offered NYC a chance to see one star player at the top of his game - Robbie Cano. We know how that turned out.

Now this. It takes real naivety to imagine the Yankees going far with its current 2014 starting rotation. You must fantasize CC Sabathia returning to form, Hiroki Kuroda lasting a season, Ivan Nova evolving further - and you still face 60 games with Adam Warren or Michael Pineda on your ticket. To become relevant next spring - and to sell tickets - the Yankees need Tanaka.

But all that talk about cutting luxury taxes? Forgetaboutit. Somewhere in Hal's laptop, the numbers are now being crunched. What will they lose in revenues if the Yankees flounder for two years in a row? Is it worth, say, $50 million in luxury taxes?

I have always believed the Yankee owners sell their fans short. I think the fan base would accept a one-year rebuilding phase, but the Yankees would have to be all in - as the Redsocks were two summers ago. (And, yes, they'd have to find teams to take bloated contracts, as the Redsocks did.) Ahh, but it'll never happen. We are fated to be the big, fat, dumb, drunk franchise that squanders money, never has a draft pick, plays old guys past their prime and rushes at everything new, thinking it offers salvation - when it's just the snake oil of imaginary hope.

Oh well. It's all up to the numbers. Can the Yankees afford Tanaka? Or can they afford not to get him?


JM said...

If we can afford Ellsbury and Beltran, how can we not afford Tanaka?

But I have a question. Are we sure the Japanese guys aren't giving us Professor Toru Tanaka, the guy who beat Dominic DeNucci in the 60s and teamed up with Mr. Fuji to defeat both Jay Strongbow and Haystacks Calhoun (with Tony Garea) in WWWF tag team championship matches? Because the Professor has gotta be 80 by now if he's even still alive. That would be quite the switcheroo, and our front office has proved to be just dumb enough to fall for it.

If we end up winning this sweepstakes, I suggest we skip the physical before signing and get the Grand Wizard of Wrestling to check the guy out, instead. I mean, there's gonna be a lot of money involved, and somebody who's qualified should make sure we don't get swindled.

el duque said...

I have been very much concerned about the possibility of Professor Tanaka returning to America - especially because we no longer have the only living antidote: Bruno Sanmartino.

I wonder if Hans Mortier could be lured from his home in Nuremburg, Germany, and perhaps Klondike Bill, from Parts Unknown, USA.

This could be trouble.

Rose City Wobbly said...

Toru Tanaka vs Jerry Lawler in a classic studio matchup in 1979. The professor employing all of the choke holds and foreign objects that the bad guys were famous for is coached/managed by Gorgeous George who ... (oh I won't give it away).

This Tanaka - died in 2000. Be very wary of this deal ... very wary!

Kate Conroy said...

You said that "fans would accept a year of rebuilding" but the Yankees have been "rebuilding" the farm system for years. Baseball America ranked the Yanks farm system 24th in 2007 and it jumped to 5th in 2008 from the major work done after Red Sox won the 2004 WS....and now that effort can be considered wasted so it will take a lot longer than one year to fix.