Does Tanaka signing change AL East balance?

Does Tanaka signing change AL East balance?
January 22, 2014, 11:15 am
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Hall of Fame voter Mark Zuckerman on the 2014 class

The Orioles would have been happier if Masahiro Tanaka signed with the Dodgers—or the Cubs—or the Diamondbacks. Now that the Japanese right-hander has signed for a reported seven years and $155 million with the Yankees, the Orioles know they’ll be seeing a lot of him.

Tanaka’s signing gives New York a 25-year-old who shouldn’t even be in the prime of his career. A 24-0 record and 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, no matter the competition is impressive.

He has an opt-out clause after four years, but is assured of being with the Yankees until he’s 29. By the way, Tanaka is about seven months younger than the Orioles’ Chris Tillman.

The Orioles can only be envious. New York signed Jacoby Ellsbury for a nearly identical contract to Tanaka’s while allowing Robinson Cano leave for a 10-year-deal with Seattle.

Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova give the Yankees four quality starters. The Red Sox and Rays may still have better rotations.

New York signed Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran in the offseason while losing Cano, Curtis Granderson and Phil Hughes to free agency. They also lost Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera to retirement. And, of course, Alex Rodriguez is suspended for the entire season.

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While Orioles fans may be down about the Tanaka signing, the Yankees’ infield has lots of question marks. Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter missed almost all of last season with injuries, and while they’re back, New York resorted to signing Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts to perhaps take Cano and A-Rod’s spots.

Boston will probably be favored to win the AL East, but the Tanaka signing could be a big one. It certainly won’t help the mood of snowed-in Orioles fans.