Yankees news/rumors: Masahiro Tanaka to stay in New York? DJ LeMahieu testing free agency

Alexander Wilson
New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka
Sep 26, 2018; St. Petersburg, FL, USA;New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have a few difficult decisions to make this off-season, especially when it comes to starting pitching and start infielder DJ LeMahieu.

The Yankees are preparing to lose three starting pitchers in Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and JA Happ to get started. However, there have been rumors that the Yankees could look to extend Tanaka, who has been relentlessly reliable over the past few years, on a much cheaper deal. He was paid $23 million in 2020, and that number simply can’t be justified any longer.

General manager Brian Cashman elected to pass on giving Tanaka a qualifying offer, likely because he doesn’t see him as being worth $18.9 million on a one year deal. I believe they will try to keep him on a more team-friendly contract, maybe hovering around the $15 million per season mark.

This past year, Tanaka pitched in 10 regular-season games, earning a 3.56 ERA and recording a slightly lower than average 43.3% ground ball rate (Fangraphs). His numbers were right in line with his career averages, which shows that he’s not taking any significant dips due to age or deterioration.

Taking a look at his pitches, he actually saw a positive .7 mph difference in his fastball compared to 2019. In fact, he saw elevation in velocity across the board with new pitching coach Matt Blake.

That is quite fantastic, and it says a lot about where Tanaka is physically. Retaining him would be a solid move, as he clearly isn’t degrading, and the Yankees can continue to rely on him as a starter in the rotation.

Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe believes there’s reason to think Tanaka could return to the Yankees:

There’s a deal to be made to stay with the Yankees. Tanaka is relentlessly reliable, but not at $23 million a year anymore.

Moving onto LeMahieu, who the Yankees hit with the qualifying offer. If you aren’t aware of the rules around this offer, it essentially forces another team to give up a draft pick if they signed LeMahieu from the Yankees. It makes staying with New York a bit more probable and forces other teams to provide value.

However, DJ is expected to decline the qualifying offer, as I always expected to be the case. I believe they will offer him a multi-year extension, but just in case he didn’t re-sign with the Yankees, forcing another team to give up draft picks is always an added bonus, and the very least the Yankees could acquire.

Losing their best infielder and hitter simply isn’t a recipe for success, so I fully anticipate the Yankees offering him a lucrative deal for the next few seasons.