April 7, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) during batting practice before the Yankees

Stock Column: Buying High on Masahiro Tanaka

Lately, it’s been kind of hard to believe how awesome Masahiro Tanaka has been. It wasn’t unreasonable to expect good numbers out of the fourth spot in the New York Yankees’ rotation, but he’s stepped up big time.

He’s pitching like an ace when the rest of the team’s starters struggle with inconsistency or injury. Also mentioned in this week’s Stock Column is Brett Gardner’s strikeout issue, Mark Teixeira’s resurgence, Stephen Drew’s potential Yankee future and the team’s international spending. 

Scale: Buying, waiting or selling.

1. Tanaka is for real


There’s no reason not to. You could hope his home run rate was lower, but he’s leaving little else to be desired and he also gets run support to boot. Brian Cashman told CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman recently Tanaka’s surpassed the organization’s expectations in his first several starts.

Going forward, as Heyman noted, Tanaka will benefit from the veteran guidance of fellow starter Hiroki Kuroda, catcher Brian McCann and pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

2. Gardner is regressing


Yea, he’s striking out too much, even he knows it, but his AVG and OBP are on par with is career totals. He’s on track to strike out 118 times a year after finishing with 127 Ks and his stolen bases could suffer the most. In 2013, he only stole 24 bases, half his two-year average from 2010 to 2011.

His strikeout rate is something he’ll have to fix, but his .281 AVG and .346 OBP are good signs, as is his seven-for-seven stolen base record.

3. Teixeira is returning to All-Star form


With only 79 at-bats this season, it’s too early to say Teixeira is back to his 2009 form, but his numbers early on are promising. If he finished the season with his current .266/.383/.557 slash line, it would be the second best of his Yankee career.

His .940 OPS would also be the best of any American League first baseman (Jose Abreu’s is .936 and Albert Pujols’ is .891). Teixeira has half the at-bats as Abreu and Pujols do, so it’s too early to get excited, but his is a much-needed presence in the middle of the order.

4. Drew will end the year as a Yankee


Derek Jeter cannot play 150 games at shortstop, but he’s on pace to play in 145. If Girardi won’t rest Jeter more often, the Yankee captain’s numbers are bound to fall. He’s currently in the middle of the pack offensively among American League shortstops, but it’s not making up for his defense.

According to FanGraphs, his WAR is sitting at an even 0.0 and his projected UZR/150 games is -9.2.

As a lefty, Drew could improve on the .443 slugging he had last year with the Boston Red Sox. Drew’s UZR is good, but it doesn’t even hold a candle to Brendan Ryan’s. It makes no sense to sign Drew for the $15 million+ Scott Boras will want for his client, especially with Ryan and Yangervis Solarte in the majors and Dean Anna in Triple-A. However, Nick Cafardo, of the Boston Globe, opined it’d be a natural fit for the two is Drew is unsigned after the June amateur draft.

5. Spending on the international market is in the Yankees’ best interest


Kiley McDaniel reported for Scout.com in Dec. that Cashman plans to shamelessly obliterate the Yankees’ $2 million international spending limit allotted them under the new collective bargaining agreement. He plans to spend $12 million to $15 million, meaning a penalty of an additional $10 million to $12 million (each dollar is taxed at a rate of 100 percent).

When all is said and done, the Yankees will have spent some $25 million on international free agents, McDaniel reported. But it’ll be worth it.

Headlined by Dominican third baseman Dermis Garcia, the Yankees have about $11 million worth in verbal agreements, all with position players, McDaniel reported in Feb.

The Yankees system is showing promise early on this year, but it’s still void of any major-league-ready prospects. Adding more talent, especially from the international market, will only strengthen the farm system.

Tags: Masahiro Tanaka New York Yankees Stock Column

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