Months earlier, the New York Yankees were loosely linked to Japanese stars Masataka Yoshida and Kodai Senga. They got neither of them. Yoshida, an outfielder, signed a deal with the Boston Red Sox while Senga secured the bag with the New York Mets.
In a vacuum, paying a $105 million price for Yoshida (which is what the Red Sox did) was probably never going to be of interest to Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner. They could more than likely get someone like Andrew Benintendi for cheaper. What about AJ Pollock or David Peralta?
If they want to go for it all, they could trade for Pirates star Bryan Reynolds. There was no sense in them paying that much money to Yoshida, who didn’t exactly “wow” scouts to the point where they viewed his deal with the Sox favorably. Outfielders are also the most expendable players in the league.
But Senga? At five years and $75 million? Where weren’t the Yankees on this? They gave Masahiro Tanaka seven years and $155 million (in addition to a $20 million posting fee to his Japanese team) back in 2014. And it’s not crazy to compare these two.
Senga is older than Tanaka was at the time of his deal and also brings a less steadfast track record as a starter (he used to be a reliever and has only eclipsed 180 innings in a season once), but he sports an electric fastball, classic splitter, big strikeout numbers and high upside.
Why didn’t the Yankees made a run at Kodai Senga?
Was this all so Steve Cohen would lay off Aaron Judge? Were Brandon Nimmo and Senga part of that rumored backdoor handshake deal that MLB found never actually happened?
Anyway, here are Senga’s and Tanaka’s numbers side by side. Overall, the Tanaka deal worked out nicely for New York, which is why fans are a bit confused due to their lack of interest in Senga.
- Kodai Senga in Japan: 104-51 with a 2.42 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 1,486 strikeouts in 1,340.2 innings
- Masahiro Tanaka in Japan: 112-56 with a 2.47 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 1,490 strikeouts in 1,633.2 innings
Tanaka made $22 million AAV over the course of his seven-year deal, but it was really $25 million when you take into account his posting fee. For Senga, he had no posting fee because he opted out of his contract with his Japanese team. So this is a nice $15 million AAV for a potential top-end starter (though Senga got an opt-out clause after Year 3).
Throw in all his accolades and an intense desire to pitch in MLB, and a $15 million AAV would’ve been cheaper than what back-end starters Jameson Taillon and Taijuan Walker received this offseason.
The Yankees have long been involved in the Japanese market, and finally a player with high upside and a relatively favorable price tag came around … but they passed. Perhaps that’s a good question to ask Cashman next time he’s facing the media.