NEW YORK -- The Yankees spent much of 2013 scouting right-hander Masahiro Tanaka in Japan. After seeing him go 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA, they came away convinced his stuff would translate to the major leagues.
On Wednesday, before Tanaka had thrown a major league pitch, they confirmed their conviction by signing the 25-year-old starter to a seven-year contract. Tanaka's deal is worth $155 million, his agent, Casey Close, confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com.
The contract includes an opt-out clause after the fourth year. The Yankees will pay Tanaka's Japanese team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, a $20 million posting fee.
The Yankees' offseason plan since the beginning of their organizational meetings in October was to go on a spending spree while trying to drop payroll beneath the $189 million tax threshold for 2014. The Yankees have spent $491 million, which includes $153 million for Jacoby Ellsbury, $100 million (including his option) for Brian McCann and $45 million for Carlos Beltran.
"We're going to do what we've got to do to win," Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, who is not as involved in day-to-day operations as his brother, Hal, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
The Yankees are over the $189 million mark, which means they will be taxed at a 50 percent rate in the future. They had hoped to slip under the number to reduce their tax rate to 12.5 percent.
"This is an exclamation point that's been made today that our work was not complete or finished in terms of trying to put in a team that people could at least talk about having a shot to take a run at qualifying for the playoffs and playing into October," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.
Cashman said it is not realistic to think there will be anymore "heavy lifting" that can take place, but quickly added they will still look to improve themselves in a much "cheaper" way the rest of the winter. He said he expects David Robertson to be the team's closer.
Cashman said the Yankees have been scouting Tanaka since 2007. They paid close attention to him during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In 2013, the Yankees had scouts at 15 of his games.
"We made a determined effort to know as much as they possibly could," said Cashman, who later admitted there are no guarantees on success, noting Japanese starters pitch on seven days' rest and use a different-sized ball.
Cashman said during the summer the Yankees made a video to try to lure Tanaka, which includedan appearance from Hideki Matsui.
"We put together a video about our ballpark, kind of an 'MTV Cribs'-type situation," Cashman said.
Ultimately, Cashman said Close told him the Yanks provided the highest offer, but others were in the vicinity. Before that, Cashman said he was in the dark, because Close kept all the information private.
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.
"There has been criticism of myself and my brother the last couple years that, gee, if our dad was still in charge, we'd be spending this and spending that and doing whatever it takes to win," he said, referring to late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
"He didn't have revenue sharing, at least for most of his time," Hank Steinbrenner added. "That's what these people in the sports media don't seem to get. If it wasn't for revenue sharing, we'd have a payroll of $300 million a year if we wanted to. So we're doing this despite having to pay all that revenue sharing."
ESPN's Buster Olney, ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews and The Associated Press contributed to this report.