24-hours ago, it seems that Masahiro Tanaka would be opting out of his contract. Most “experts” in the media predicted just that. The sentiments of the fans also seemed to echo that feeling.
And then, Masahiro Tanaka shocked most of the experts, the pundits, and the fans by declining his opt-out clause indicating that he would be staying with the Yankees. Tanaka stated (in part), “It was a simple decision for me, as I have truly enjoyed the past four years playing for this organization and for the wonderful fans of New York."
Along with the celebrations from some quarters of Yankees fans, a new narrative developed that stated that Tanaka was only staying for the money – that he knew he wouldn’t be able to get more money or years than the Yankees were offering. This was the factor in Tanaka deciding not to opt-out. In other words, rather than seeing Tanaka as a player who simply wished to remain a Yankee, some saw his decision as purely financial. In this, they pointed to his injury history and poor regular season in 2018 as reasons why other clubs wouldn’t offer him a better deal than he’s getting with the Yankees.
None of us will ever truly know the reason why Masahiro Tanaka decided to stay with the Yankees for (at least) three more years. As a fan who likes to look to the good and who tries to be optimistic, I am taking Masahiro’s words at face value. Tanaka seems to be a player who enjoys playing for the Yankees. He also knows that the Yankees are poised for a successful run for many years. Those factors might be the reasons why he decided to stay.
I believe that Tanaka would have earned a hefty pay day had he opted out. While earning $67 million for three years can’t be considered a sacrifice, I do think that he could have leveraged his past success for even greater riches as a free agent.
Whatever the reason that he is staying, the Yankees are better off because of it. While Tanaka had his worse year as Yankee in 2017, he will be an important component of a strong starting rotation in 2018.
I, for one, am thrilled that he staying with the Yankees. As a fan (maybe a naïve fan), I’m hoping the main factor in his staying is his desire to help secure the 28th World Championship for the New York Yankees.
The bottom line is this, with Tanaka in the rotation, fans have one more reason to look optimistically toward next year.