The Yankees don’t have to think about who is going to be the ace of the rotation next year. Everyone is well aware the leader of the pack is Masahiro Tanaka. But what about after the 2017 season?
When Tanaka signed the seven-year, $155 Million deal, there was one glaring clause in the contract: Tanaka could opt-out of the deal after the 2017 season. Tanaka would earn $22 Million in 2017, but he would walk away from a $67 Million deal from years 2018 to 2020.
So what could the Yankees do with Tanaka between now and the end of next season?
1. Trade Him
It seems like the least likely option since the Yankees are contending next season. But if they know for a fact they’re not going to be able to lock him up, then they should try to trade him and add to the farm system. If the Yankees were to put Tanaka on the market this winter, the price would be excruciatingly high, so the Yankees would have the upperhand on a team that is desperate for elite starting pitching.
2. Extend Him
This is a route the Yankees usually avoid. The team simply refuses to offer extensions in the middle of a current contract (unless your name is Brett Gardner). Yes, the Yankees offered extensions to CC Sabathia and even Alex Rodriguez in past, but they had already opt out of their deal which technically made them free agents. The Yankees could try to extend a deal with their ace, but I think they would rather wait until the end of the season before signing him (I’ll explain that more in a moment).
3. Do Nothing
The Yankees know the opt-out clause is there. Masahiro Tanaka knows the opt-out clause is there. Do both sides simply ignore it for the time being and let Tanaka pitch for the Yankees as if there are no distractions? Seems extremely possible. It’s also possible Tanaka decides to stay, which would further the ‘do nothing’ plan on the Yankees end.
4. Re-Sign Him
This scenario would involve Tanaka opting out of his contract, but like Sabathia and Rodriguez, it could be a formality of Tanaka wanting more money from his first Major League team. It’s money the Yankees have. Its money the Yankees should be willing to give him.
Re-signing him seems like the most likely option, but with the 2017 offseason merely a year away, we don’t have to worry about the possibility of losing Tanaka–yet.