When Game 7 of the World Series ends, Masahiro Tanaka will have three days to decide if he wants to opt-out of the final three years and $67 million left on his contract.
The first question is — will Tanaka opt-out? He did struggle this season with a 4.74 ERA in 178.1 innings, but in a world where Ian Kennedy is worth five years and $70 million, and Jeff Samardzija is worth five years and $90 million, I think that Tanaka, who finished 7th in the Cy Young voting in 2016, can probably land at least a five year and $100 million deal.
Does that mean he definitely opts out? No. Not with a questionable health history. There is also his up-and-down play this year where he had a 4.74 ERA overall including a 6.34 ERA until June 17. That’s ugly. Still — the arm injury is more incentive to go after the guaranteed years and he is coming off a very impressive playoff performance.
If Tanaka does opt out — the Yankees basically have two options — let him walk or re-sign him.
Sure somebody will probably give Tanaka a better deal than he’ll be walking away from, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees have to be that team. They may decide to invest that money in other ways, or use it as a way to sneak under the luxury tax threshold for the first time ever. After all, Luis Severino did emerge as a potential front-end starter.
Then again, the Yankees are finally ready to compete for a World Series after years of mediocrity. It certainly would help to have Tanaka in the mix. Severino is a nice pitcher, but behind him is Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery in the rotation. Sure there are a few young pitchers in Triple-A who could be candidates for the rotation, but the Yankees would probably prefer guys like Justus Sheffield be option six, seven or eight and not four or five.
Or the solution could be to take the next three days to negotiate a fair contract extension to keep Tanaka from opting out. That’s what the Yankees did with CC Sabathia and despite the fact that it seemed questionable at times it seems to have largely worked out for both sides. That could happen again here with Tanaka.
I don’t have an answer here. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know that I go back and forth on this. My feeling is that a modest two-year extension is fair, but risky. Tanaka showed in the playoffs that he is still capable of pitching like an ace, but he spent the entire season showing that he won’t be consistent like one.
Anything longer than, say, two-years and $44 million extension is probably a poor decision. If Tanaka wants more than that it’s probably wise to invest that money elsewhere.