The New York Yankees had two main priorities: re-signing DJ LeMahieu and addressing their pitching needs after losing Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ to free agency after the season ended. After two months of the offseason passed, four days ago, Yankee general manager Brian Cashman shifted into high gear and announced the signing of DJ LeMahieu to a $90 million six-year contract.
Within just hours, the New York Yankees announced the signing of two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to a one-year deal worth $11 million. With the Yankees still interested in re-signing Masahiro Tanaka, the “Klubot” deal seemed to be the writing on the wall that Tanaka would not be returning. Over the weekend, Masahiro Tanaka made it clear that he was looking for a one-year deal in the range of $15-$20 million. The Yankees will not answer that demand, and Tanaka’s time with the Yankees is almost certainly over.
According to Roster Resource, the Yankees payroll stands at $201 million with the signing of both LeMahieu, Kluber, and the arbitration raises. The Yankee’s luxury tax ledger is estimated at just over $207MM. Add to that Yankee owner Hal Steinbrenner said earlier in the offseason that he wants to stay below the threshold of $210MM. Other than trades that leave the Yankees with just over $6 million to spend on another pitcher or bullpen help. Tanaka’s wish of nearly $20 million does not fit into that picture.
Another consideration is that Tanaka isn’t worth anything near $20 million. He, in the last year of his Yankee contract, was paid $23 million. It was thought at the time that if the Yankees were to take Tanaka back, it would be for roughly half of that amount, the same money they spent on Kluber. Tanaka has been a relatively consistent pitcher for the Yankees, but his last two years have shown a significant decline.
Tanaka last season had a relatively good ERA of 3.56 but was no longer an innings eater; he went 6 or more innings only twice in the entire season. In his first game of the season, he only went 2.2 innings. That was followed by his best game of the season when he went 5 innings with an ERA of 1.17. A comebacker hit Tanaka in summer camp from fellow Yankee Giancarlo Stanton.
But the biggest disappointment for the Yankees was in the postseason. Tanaka had always been good in the postseason, but not so last year. In just two games, one in the division series against the Indians and the ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays, he pitched a combined total of eight innings with an astronomical ERA of 12.38, giving up eleven runs.
How sincere the Yankees were when they said they would like to see Tanaka back with the team is anyone’s guess. With the Yankees not giving him a qualifying offer of $18.9 million, it was clear then that they didn’t think he was worth near that. It appears all that is left is for New York Yankee fans to say thank you for the memories.
It is unclear if other teams are interested in Tanaka, but he will most likely return to Japan to finish out his career if they aren’t. He is a national hero in Japan and can likely make more money to finish a stellar career there in his homeland, where he can indulge in his Japanese fans’ adulation. The video below is of Tanaka’s complete game shut out of the Rays on June 18, 2019.