The team badly wanted Tanaka and made it clear to him during a meeting two weeks ago. On Jan. 8, according to sources, the Yankees sent an eight-man group to Los Angeles to meet with Tanaka and Close. President Randy Levine, Cashman, assistant GMs Billy Eppler and Jean Afterman, manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Larry Rothschild, former Japanese manager Trey Hillman (a special assistant to Cashman) and translator George Rose were present.
"They sold him on the Yankees," a source told ESPNNewYork.com. "That it was the right place to play and that big-game players play there."
The Yankees knew they needed Tanaka because of questions surrounding their pitching staff. CC Sabathia will try to regain his ace form. Hiroki Kuroda, who turns 39 before spring training, will attempt to show his struggles in the season's final six weeks were a mirage. No. 3 starter Ivan Nova will need to be consistent for a full season.
The Yankees decided to revamp the team after missing the playoffs for just the second time since 1995. Their top targets were Tanaka, Robinson Cano, McCann and Beltran. They also liked Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo. They have now signed Tanaka, McCann and Beltran, and replaced Cano's bat with Ellsbury's. Cano went to the Seattle Mariners for $240 million.
Still, the Yankees are not a complete team. At second base, they have the injury-plagued Brian Roberts and career minor leaguer Dean Anna, while at third they have Kelly Johnson as a possibility. And with Mark Teixeira at first base and Derek Jeter at short, they have star players returning from major injuries.
Tanaka is considered a top-of-the-rotation starter. He was able to command a huge contract because of a new posting system in place this offseason. Under the former rules, one team would win exclusive rights to negotiate with a player -- meaning more money for the Japanese clubs but less for the player.
For example, Yu Darvish agreed to a six-year, $60 million deal with the Rangers after the team won his negotiating rights with a $51.7 million posting bid. He is 29-18 in two seasons with Texas, striking out 498 batters in 401 innings.
Under the new rules, Tanaka became a free agent, but there was a $20 million fee attached to him.
Of the other teams that were courting Tanaka -- the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks -- the Yankees made the largest offer. The total expenditure ($175 million in salary and posting) is the largest ever for a free-agent pitcher.
Tanaka receives the largest contract ever for an international free agent and the fifth-largest deal for a pitcher, trailing only those of Clayton Kershaw ($215 million), Justin Verlander ($180 million), Felix Hernandez ($175 million) and Sabathia ($161 million under his original agreement with New York).
Tanaka was 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA and 1,238 strikeouts in 175 games for Rakuten since 2007. He had 53 complete games, including 18 shutouts.
In his interview with the AP, Hank Steinbrenner bristled at the notion the Yankees were becoming cheap without his father around.