Masahiro Tanaka
AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek

Masahiro Tanaka has reportedly decided that the New York Yankees are the only team in Major League Baseball he wants to play for in 2021.

Masahiro Tanaka is a free agent for the first time since signing with the New York Yankees as an international free agent prior to the 2014 season. And according to Randy Miller of NJ.com, Tanaka is seriously considering returning to play in Japan if he doesn’t re-sign with the Yankees.

The Yankees need to make sure he stays in New York.

The starting rotation is in absolute shambles right now. Beyond Gerrit Cole, the Yankees have nothing but question marks. Luis Severino is scheduled to return mid-season, but after two years of injuries it’s not a given that he returns as an ace. James Paxton and J.A. Happ are both free agents. Domingo German has struggled in the Dominican Winter League after being suspended for the 2020 season. And Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia struggled to find their footing in their rookie seasons. It’s just too many question marks to have sustainable success in 2021.

With that many holes in the rotation, the Yankees need a consistent player they can plug in behind Cole. They need to know that they have another quality start coming once a week.

Tanaka is the stable presence that the rotation needs.

Losing Tanaka to his former Japanese team would be a crushing blow. The Yankees simply don’t have the organizational depth to win a postseason series as it stands now. And now that Tanaka has made it clear that the Yankees are the only team in play for his services in 2021, there’s no excuse not to make a deal work. Of course, they’ll have to deal with the DJ LeMahieu situation first. But I would be shocked if Tanaka and the Yankees don’t find a way to reconnect.

Tanaka wants to play for a winning team and the Yankees need starting pitching desperately. All they need to do is connect on the contract value.