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Yankees go shopping

Sign Japanese sensation Tanaka to seven-year, $155-million deal

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NEW YORK -- The Yankees talked frugality, then reverted to their high-spending ways.

New York capped an off-season spending spree by agreeing Wednesday to a $155-million, seven-year contract with prized Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Following just the second season in 19 years that didn't include a playoff appearance, the Yankees flexed their economic might and committed $438 million to four free agents.

 

Tanaka joined catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran on a revamped roster missing longtime all-stars Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Robinson Cano.

And in addition to the deal with the 25-year-old right-hander, the Yankees must pay a $20 million posting fee to Tanaka's Japanese club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

"Anybody that questioned our commitment to winning is going to have to question themselves," Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Big league teams had until Friday to reach an agreement with Tanaka, who was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year as the Golden Eagles won the Japan Series title. Arizona, the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston all said they were among the failed bidders.

Still, the Yankees have ample uncertainty -- especially in an AL East where they compete with World Series champion Boston.

And especially with a veteran team that saw 21 players go on the disabled list last year.

David Robertson appears set to inherit the closer's role from the retired Rivera, and New York must try to make up the offence lost when Cano left for a $240-million, 10-year deal with Seattle. Alex Rodriguez is suspended for the entire season and 39-year-old shortstop Derek Jeter has played just 17 games since October 2012.

"I think the entire infield is certainly something that people will focus on," New York general manager Brian Cashman said.

"What's Brian Roberts going to be? What's Derek Jeter going to be as he comes back from his injury? What's Mark Teixeira going to be at first base as he comes back from his wrist? Can Kelly Johnson secure and handle on a consistent basis third base?"

New York went 85-77 last year, its worst record since 1992. Attendance and television ratings dropped.

The pinstriped response was similar to the Yankees' behaviour after they missed the playoffs in 2008. They spent $423.5 million on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Teixeira, then won their 27th World Series title.

This off-season included big deals for McCann ($85 million for five years), Ellsbury ($153 million for seven) and Beltran ($45 million for three). Combined with agreements to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda and Brendan Ryan, and to add Roberts, Johnson and Matt Thornton, the Yankees' off-season spending on free agents totals $471 million. Add the posting fee, and the cost was nearly a half-billion dollars.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 23, 2014 D4

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