The secret is out. Newly signed Masahiro Tanaka, who agreed to a seven-year, $155 million contract on Wednesday, will be wearing the No. 19 in his rookie season with the New York Yankees.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) January 24, 2014
Tanaka most recently wore the No. 18 with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan, but that number already belongs to fellow countryman and established MLB veteran Hiroki Kuroda. Seniority always wins, unless the younger, sometimes richer player offers a deal the veteran can't refuse. Tanaka also wore the No. 15 during the World Baseball Classic, but that number was retired for Yankees legend Thurman Munson following his tragic death in 1979.
As Tanya Bondurant of Pinstripe Alley notes, fans will probably be anxious to run out and buy the No. 19 jersey now that the cat is out of the bag. However, caution is advised with Kuroda's career seemingly winding down and the strong possibility existing that the No. 18 could be available again following the 2014 season.
Then again, it would still serve as a pretty neat collector's item. And who knows, with a little success wearing the new number during his rookie season, perhaps Tanaka embraces it.
Only one thing is certain: Former Yankees catcher Chris Stewart — who wore No. 19 last season — isn't walking through that clubhouse door after being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in December, so No. 19 is set in stone. In fact, Stewart has already weighed in on Tanaka using his old number.
— Daniel Barbarisi (@DanBarbarisi) January 24, 2014
Stewart was so close, yet so far away. Maybe if he can beat out Russell Martin for the Pirates starting gig he can begin his journey for immortality there.
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