by Owen Hetherington
January 23, 2021
Seven years ago, yesterday, 25-year-old Masahiro Tanaka signed a 7 year $115M contract with the New York Yankees. At the time, it was a huge signing for the Yankees. As Brian Cashman said during the press conference introducing Tanaka, “This represents a lot of attention”.
After seven years Tanaka is a free agent on the open market. Reports have circulated the past few months, questioning where Tanaka could end up signing. Right around Christmas, the media reported that Tanaka would only either re-sign back with the Yankees or return home to play in Japan.
Since then, Tanaka has tweeted out to set the record straight that he is indeed looking for other offers around the league. It didn’t surprise me to see Tanaka take quick action when reports said this because it would decrease the dollar amount of an offered contract.
Before signing Corey Kluber to a one-year deal, I thought bringing back Tanaka would be the right move. He is a veteran presence in the locker room and could still be a difference-maker in the rotation. However, signing Kluber for $11M decreased the likelihood of a Tanaka comeback if the Yankees are trying to remain under the luxury tax.
My assumption within the next few weeks is that the Yankees will not offer Tanaka a contract matching the $15M he and his agent are asking for. I think the Yankees have enough young arms who can start and be as much help to the rotation as Tanaka would be.
It’s tough for me to say this, but I think we’ve seen Tanaka pitch his last game in a Yankee uniform. Sadly, he didn’t get the send-off he deserved with fans in the stands. Whether you thought his contract was worth it or not, Tanaka played a huge role in the rotation and the playoffs over the last few years.
I believe the Yankees go into Opening Day with the following rotation:
Domingo German/Clarke Schmidt
I think it’s time we finally give some of our young arms a chance. I would like to see a guy like Clarke Schmidt finally get a shot at pitching in the rotation. On top of seeing our young arms, the Yankees can remain under the luxury tax by not spending on another starter.
Although Luis Castillo would have been a huge addition to the starting rotation, Gleyber Torres was not someone the Yankees would consider parting with. A 24-year-old pitcher on the edge of entering his prime is not worth a number two starter.
Tanaka brought great memories to the Yankees organization. He played the game hard and was always someone you could count on in a big moment. He was a workhorse in the playoffs and will always be remembered for that.
I think the focus remains on trying to get another piece or two for the bullpen. After signing LeMahieu and Kluber, the Yankees won’t have much to spend if they’re trying to stay under the luxury tax.
I guess that Tanaka will return to Japan to finish out his baseball career. He’s likely to get paid more in Japan and I can’t blame a guy looking for the biggest contract. I think if the Yankees lean on their young arms, they will be able to win enough games at the cheapest price until Sevy comes back.