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Yankees sign Tanaka to seven-year deal

Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka of Rakuten Eagles speaks before the press after meeting with his team's president in Sendai in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan on December 17, 2013
Masahiro Tanaka gives a press conference in Sendai in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan on December 17, 2013

Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese pitcher who went unbeaten last season, signed a seven-year Major League Baseball deal worth $155 million with the New York Yankees on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old right-hander, whose contract is the major leagues' highest for an Asian-born player, went 24-0 with a 1.27 earned-run average and 183 strikeouts with only 32 walks in 212 inning for the Japan Series champion Rakuten Eagles.

The Yankees spent another $20 million in a posting fee to the Eagles to obtain Tanaka, who was sought by several US clubs and considered the best pitcher available by most teams.

Tanaka, who reportedly has an opt-out clause after four years in the contract, spent seven seasons with Rakuten, debuting at age 18 and going 99-35 with a 2.30 earned-run average in 175 games while striking out 1,238 batters over 1,315 innings.

His deal ranks as the fifth-highest for a pitcher in Major League Baseball history, trailing the seven-year deals for Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers at $215 million, Detroit's Justin Verlander at $180 million, Seattle's Felix Hernandez at $175 and his new Yankee teammate, C.C. Sabathia, at $161 million.

Tanaka fills out a Yankee starting rotation that includes Japan's Hiroki Kuroda, Dominican Ivan Nova and Sabathia.

The Yankees and other major league clubs were faced with a Friday deadline to reach a deal with Tanaka or see him return to Japan for another season.

With the signing, the Yankees figure to soar well beyond the $189 million in salaries they had hoped to spend for their 2014 campaign.

The Yankees won only 85 games last season, finishing in third place in the American League East division, but have added free agents Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury to the lineup in the off-season and with Tanaka have bolstered their pitching to return to contention for a playoff spot.