Masahiro Tanaka the most was the team that signed him: the New York Yankees.
On Wednesday, the Yankees and Tanaka agreed on a seven-year, $155 million contract. The deal contains an opt-out clause after the fourth year. The Yankees also must pay Tanaka's Japanese team, the Rakuten Eagles, a $20 million posting fee.
I'm sure the Yankees have more than enough money to cover that, and I think their desperation to sign a potential No. 1 starter sent them to the front of the line in the Tanaka sweepstakes.
New York had already spent $283 million this offseason to bring in free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. However, there was no way the Yankees were going to overtake the Boston Red Sox in the AL East with a declining C.C. Sabathia and 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda heading up their starting rotation. The Yankees' presumed No. 3 starter, Ivan Nova, has shown flashes been has never been both consistent and healthy for a full season. New York had to sign an ace-quality pitcher.
With Tanaka in the mix, each of those other three pitchers gets moved down a peg, and the Yankees have a better chance to win in one of baseball's toughest division. Of course, the key to the whole deal is Tanaka living up to the hype. Sure, he went 24-0 in Japan last year, but how will that translate to the United States? We shall see.
Both the Cubs and the White Sox were listed as finalists in the Tanaka race. Obviously, both teams came up short. I don't think there will be much shock on the South Side. I can't recall the White Sox ever giving a pitcher more than a five-year contract. I'd be surprised if the Sox would have been willing to give Tanaka six years, let alone the seven the Yankees gave him. Also, the Sox are not expected to contend in 2014, and perhaps that was a factor in Tanaka's decision.
The rebuilding Cubs also were in no position to offer Tanaka the chance to play for an immediate winner. I'm pretty sure the North Siders would have been willing to ante up for six or seven years, but it's questionable whether they would have been able to match or exceed the Yankees' offer. But even if they did, if you're Tanaka, who are you picking? The Yankees or the Cubs? I'd pick New York and go play for a winner.
David Kaplan tweeted today that the Cubs were "runner up" in the Tanaka bidding. If true, it's a little surprising the Cubs were ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it really doesn't matter. You know what else the Cubs were runners-up in? The NLCS in 1984 and again in 2003. There is no prize for finishing second.
As far as Tanaka goes, the Cubs are in the same boat with the Sox, the Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. They made their pitch and they lost out to the Yankees. End of story. For some, it might be disappointing, but it's not even slightly surprising.