With a Masahiro Tanaka opt-out looming in the dark, the New York Yankees can approach the situation like they did with their closer.With New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman announcing he hasn’t spoken to starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka about a contract extension, the talk about a potential opt out following the 2017 has emerged.
For those who aren’t aware, New York’s 28-year old ace has four years, $89 million left on his seven-year $155 million contract signed in 2014 and there is an opt-out option for the righty following this upcoming season.
Tanaka is coming off a year in which he finished with the third-best ERA (3.07) among qualified American League starters behind Aaron Sanchez of the Toronto Blue Jays (3.00) and Justin Verlander (3.04) of the Detroit Tigers.
Therefore, the Yankees may have a decision to make as the 2017 regular season progresses, but before we take part in this thought-provoking scenario, concede this situation as being uniquely theoretical.
There is absolutely nothing written in stone saying Tanaka will opt out of his deal. His elbow, which includes a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, could go at any time which will require Tommy John surgery and a meaningless spot on New York’s payroll for over a year.
He could also have a washout of a year — the opposite of the CY Young candidate he was in 2016 — and decide to play it safe but if he ends up replicating the ace he was for the Bombers a year ago, Tanaka and his agent will likely test free agency.
We would assume Cashman would take the CC Sabathia route from 2011 and take care of business before the offseason rolls around, but he certainly sounds like he’s waiting on Tanaka’s decision rather than jumping to an extension — reasonable.
But if we find out before the trade deadline that his ace will most certainly abandon ship at season’s end and the Yankees convince his party to wave his no-trade clause, the Aroldis Chapman route should be in play.
Chapman, who was acquired in the offseason of 2015 from the Cincinnati Reds for Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo, Caleb Cotham and Tony Renda. While clearly out of contention, Cashman shipped the soon-to-be free agent to Chicago for their top infield prospect, Gleyber Torres along with Rashad Crawford, Billy McKinney and Adam Warren.
New York’s GM made the arrangement and apparently winked to his then-former closer as he left Yankee Stadium — as he brought the reliever with the most strikeouts (617) among major league relievers since 2011 back the following offseason.
The process not only instilled the farm system with a young stud in Torres, but it delivered the Yankees with one of, if not, the best, closer in the game for at least the next three years.
How does that play into Tanaka’s situation? Well, if they are out of contention come July of 2017, the organization could, as mentioned, ask their ace to waive his no-trade clause so they can once again obtain a haul from a contender in dire need of a starter for his services.
The partial tear in his UCL and opt-out will hinder some value, but for the righty with the 11th-best ERA in the AL since coming over to the United States and who was just one-third of an inning away from 200, he’ll warrant a decent haul.
All that while joining the inevitable “Tanaka sweepstakes” next offseason — when Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia’s combined $46 million come off the books — and bring him back to be the ace for years to come.
While that seems problematic for the present (after all, who’d be the ace?!), Hal Steinbrenner could take the second half of 2016’s approach and continue to excite the fan base by giving them a taste of James Kaprielian, Chance Adams, Dietrich Enns or even Jordan Montgomery.
But’s slow down for a second. Understand how many aspects need to go a certain way for this to happen, but with pitching obviously being a hot commodity in this day in age of baseball, a non-contending Yankees team that is still looking to brighten its future needs to at least consider this avenue as a possibility.
We don’t know if New York will be “in it” or not (I believe they should be). We don’t know if Tanaka will have an ace-like 2017 or even stay healthy. We don’t know if he’ll comeback to the Yankees if he elects free agency. There are literally no guarantees.
However, if Tanaka ditches and never returns, they’ll have the aforementioned names in Arrieta, Darvish, Cueto and more in free agency to fill the void in 2018 and beyond.
A gamble for sure, and some can even make the point that the bidding war Cashman could find himself in would push him to try to extend him now, but if we take the retool plan for what it is (a three to four year project), by the time they are ready to contend, a power pitcher like Tanaka, who’s career has already been tampered by injuries, would be on the downward side of his path by the time the retool hits its “compete” stage.
So, in the end, its smart to at least consider a respectful “wink wink” scenario between the two parties in order to benefit both sides. No, he won’t warrant the package Chicago received for Chris Sale, but a couple of prospects with upside would definitely be on the table.
Hypothetical, yet not as far-fetched as you may think.