Masahiro Tanaka announced in a statement Friday night that he would honor the final three years of his contract with the New York Yankees and not opt out.
I have decided to stay with the Yankees for the next three seasons. 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.
Tanaka has $67m remaining on his current contract with the Yankees which will expire in 2020. The 29-year-old had a rough season with a career-worst in ERA(4.74) and in losses (12) in what was a rollercoaster year for the veteran right-hander. There were definitely some concerns with Tanaka having the potential to opt out as the Yankees would have to fill in a major part of their rotation if he left.
This was an absolute no-brainer for Tanaka not only for the reasons he gave but because of the issues surrounding him.
His UCL could go at any second
In Tanaka's first year as a Yankee, he missed a large part of the season with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and did not get Tommy John surgery.
The injury never diminished Tanaka's ability to be competitive as he changed his approach on the mound. Instead of relying on his mid to high 90s fastball, Tanaka mixed up his splitter, slider, sinker and two-seam fastball. The league has been waiting for that tear to become a problem for Tanaka and it has yet to become one. He spent time on the 10-day disabled list during the month of August, but that was with a nonrelated injury.
For another team to sign Tanaka to a deal worth more than what the Yankees are paying him now would be a huge risk considering that partial tear. Tanaka probably realized that this could be an issue for him if on the market. Taking the security was a smart move for Tanaka as it would be irresponsible to give him a long-term deal.
A chance to compete for a World Series
The Yankees are in a prime position to be successful for a long time and Tanaka is a big part of that.
Even with his well-documented struggles, Tanaka thrived on the big stage with the Yankees in coming one win short of making the World Series. Tanaka pitched to a 0.90 ERA in three starts during the 2017 postseason and came up with some huge wins for the Yankees. With New York down in the ALDS 2-0 to the Cleveland Indians, Tanaka came up with a clutch start in which he threw seven shutout innings, allowing for Greg Bird to hit that memorable solo home run to put the Yankees back in the series.
Having players like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, and Greg Bird give the Yankees a great chance at competing for a championship. When Tanaka signed with the Yankees in 2014, one reason he gave was that he wanted to win a championship. That is what the team stands for, and Tanaka has a shot to get one with this club throughout the final three years of his contract.
Looking Ahead to 2018
The Yankees are expecting great things in 2018 and Tanaka will play a major role in that. New York expects to have a rotation of Luis Severino, Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery with the possibility of C.C. Sabathia coming back. This rotation was one of the best in all of baseball.
Tanaka will only see one major change with the Yankees and that will be a change in managers. The Yankees will go through a philosophical change in 2018 and Tanaka, along with other Yankee starters, will have to learn to adjust. The new Yankee manager will rely on analytics which says Tanaka starts to slow down at around 85 pitches. Whether Tanaka understands and accepts that is yet to be seen and will go a long way in how the Yankees perform.
With Tanaka staying in the Bronx, the Yankees will be set up for the next couple of years with a strong rotation. Tanaka didn't want to lose out on a chance to be a part of something special and staying with the Yankees gives him that.