Stay or Go: What do the Yankees do if Tanaka opts out?

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.

The solution could be to take the money Tanaka made and target another free agent. Perhaps Yu Darvish might cost slightly less. Or the Yankees might envision Jake Arrieta as a potential fit.

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.

About Rob Abruzzese

Rob Abruzzese created Bronx Baseball Daily in 2008 just before graduating from Brooklyn College. He currently serves BBD as its editor and works as a reporter at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobAbruzzese.
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10 Responses to Stay or Go: What do the Yankees do if Tanaka opts out?

  1. Balt Yank says:

    I would let him walk. Like CC and despite his decent year at Age 38 as a six inning pitcher (at best), CC's extension contract was not favorable to the Yankees. CC has been at best a No. 5 starter for the last three years at $20 million plus. Tanaka is a risk for the next three years if he opts in; if he opts out, let him walk. He also showed less length in 2017. Of course, he has character, a non statistical very important quality in baseball, and I like Tanaka. He is paid enough. The Yankees could extend CC for 1 year at $10 million or resign Jamie Garcia for the same for that No. 5 slot. Then go with youth: Serevino, Montgomery, Gray, Chance Adams, No. 5 Old person, with Triple A prospects biting at the heels.

    • tom says:

      Sabathia had reached 7th inning 30 times over last 3 years when he was drunk, outweight and dealing bum knee. Tanaka is in good shape despite his ticktock elbow. If he stays, he still will be better than Tanaka.

      Bringing Sabathia back for a measley 10m is swell in any situation. It is not that expensive to cut when he is no longer to pitch. Yankees will not allow Adams to reach 180 ip in 2018.

  2. Terry says:

    Love the off season kickoff! I would like to see Tanaka stay, but if he opts out, let him go. These longer 29+ mill contracts are what led to our years of no playoffs. I like the Adams kid to win the 5th spot. So look at the FA/Trade market and see what's available. If CC and Tanaka are both off the books, what's that like 45 million a year. You could acquire a really good starter and save money. Leaving the other young arms for depth. If another veteran becomes a need, next summers deadline will be there ala Sonny this year. Again though, I would rather see him stay and not opt out

  3. Jerry says:

    Who is Tanaka's agent? If Boras, I'm sure he'll opt out, but otherwise, he may stay. As I've read somewhere else, any prospective new team is going to require his medical history. It may not look pretty, and possibly worse than it was. If I'm Tanaka , I would look at his health before opting out and some team seeing not so pretty a picture. And also before the Yankees negotiate a longer contract, I assume they would also want to look at his health, pictures of his arm. Might be a reason he already knows he's not opting out. All in all I hope he stays.

  4. Steve S. says:

    Well, he's staying and I'm happy about that. A big game, big time pitcher. We have to hope he stays reasonably healthy.

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