Masahiro Tanaka is in the final year of his seven year, $155 million deal that he signed with the Yankees after coming state side from Japan in 2014.
Since Tanaka made his way to the Yankees, he has been a solid starter for the team. The two time all-star has a regular season career 3.75 ERA and a 1.76 post season ERA. The numbers are nothing to look down on, Tanaka has been a consistent starter for seven straight years and has proven to Yankee fans and higher ups that they can count on him more often than not.
Not only does he bring consistency to the team, he shows a highly competitive spirit every time he’s on the mound and is highly regarded by his teammates. All around, Tanaka seems like the perfect candidate to be re-signed after this season but that’s not actually the case. Masa has one big thing looming over a potential new contract with the Yankees: his partially torn UCL.
The UCL or if you’re a doctor, the ulnar collateral ligament, is the ligament that runs through the inner side of the elbow to help support it during during certain movement; movements like throwing.
Tearing the UCL for most pitchers means a trip to see the Tommy John doctor. Tanaka, on the other hand, has been dealing with a partially torn UCL for quite a few years now and by quite a few I mean since he came to the team in 2014.
Tanaka never needed surgery for his torn UCL. He went through about six weeks of rehab and came out ready to go. The problem has been mostly out of sight, out of mind for Tanaka, fans, and Yankees management, but with a new contract looming I’m sure Brain Cashman and his team are starting to think about that pesky UCL again.
Age isn’t just a number
Tanaka been dealing with a UCL tear for six years and is seemingly doing just fine, but the UCL tear might be harder to handle now that Tanaka is in his 30’s.
Tanaka will be 32 years old when negotiating a new contract with the Yanks, and we all know how front offices feel about older guys. Even if the UCL doesn’t lead to Tommy John, which no one knows for sure, Tanaka could easily deal with other age and wear and tear issues during his next contract. Not only would the Yankees be taking a big chance with the UCL, they are taking an even bigger chance signing a semi-long term contract because of his aging.
The Yankees might instead option to focus on James Paxton, who is slightly younger and much cheaper ($12.5 million for his one year contact). Paxton underwent back surgery this year so the Yankees could easily scoop him up cheap for another one year contract to see what he can do after a season on the IL. He has had issues with his arm this season, though.
All about the money
Giving Tanaka an expensive long term contract is out of the question. The Yankees have so many substantial contracts to pay off in the years coming (Stanton, Cole and Hicks) and even more big contracts on the horizon (Judge, Sanchez, Torres).
There is simply no room to give Tanaka the $22 million a year he’s making now, especially not for more than theee years. If Tanaka would agree to a short term lower salary the Yankees might be able to bring him back to the Bronx. Front loading money to Tanaka might be the only way to keep the Yankees under the luxury tax.
Let the emotions go
Many Yankee fans might be sad thinking about letting Tanaka go, but we need to think with our brains and not our hearts. Tanaka has done great for the Bronx Bombers in the past, but I just don’t think the Yankees can give him the years and the money he will be looking for come this offseason. Sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye, but goodbye we must say nonetheless.