But like quarterbacking in football, pitching is everything in baseball, and the third-place, 85-77 Yankees understood they weren't going to make up those 12 games on the Red Sox with Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova as their top three arms. So they couldn't let the Dodgers or the Cubs or anyone else beat them to Tanaka, not after they saved all of that money on the Alex Rodriguez suspension, and not after Hal Steinbrenner repeated his late father's blood oath that he would never let a budget stand in the way of a parade.
Young Steinbrenner already had laid out $283 million on free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, and another $16 million to bring back Kuroda. And yet after losing his best player to the Mariners, Steinbrenner felt pressured to prove he has his old man's stomach for the fight.
The Yankees had spent as much time and energy on getting under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold in 2014 as half the NBA spent on getting under the salary cap to pursue LeBron James in 2010. They had their valid reasons -- namely, saving tens of millions that they swore they would reinvest in talent in the very near future -- but the fans had their valid reasons for wanting more, too, and wanting it right now, starting with the obscene prices they pay for tickets and parking and concessions at the ballpark.
So the Yankees forgot about the luxury-tax line about as quickly as they've forgotten about A-Rod, and went all-in on Tanaka's split-fingered fastball. The kid has thrown a ton of innings for his age, the ball is slightly smaller in Japan, and yes, the Yanks still remember how they were burned by the money spent on Kei Igawa and Hideki Irabu.
"But this isn't about any other player," the team source said. "If this guy is what the scouts say he is, he'll be among the top pitchers in the game."
Cashman said the Yankees were the highest bidders, if not by much, and that the fourth-year opt-out clause was a showstopper. The escape clause is there just in case the 2017 Tanaka is looking like a right-handed version of another Close client, Clayton Kershaw. Not that the Yankees are thinking they just signed another Kershaw. In fact, they're not even sure they signed another Yu Darvish.
But they're certain they wouldn't have won the World Series with whatever's left of Sabathia at the top of the rotation. By investing $175 million in Tanaka, and by blowing up their budget, the Yankees reminded a region preparing for the Super Bowl storm that they'll always be the home team willing to do anything in pursuit of a parade.
Peyton Manning and Richard Sherman, the floor is yours.