With the final out of the World Series Wednesday night, Masahiro Tanaka officially went on the clock.
The Yankees righthander has three days from the end of the World Series to exercise an opt-out clause in the seven-year, $155-million contract he signed before the 2014 season. Opting out would mean that Tanaka would leave about $67 million on the table.
With a free-agent class of starting pitchers that doesn’t seem all that strong — Yu Darvish, shelled twice during the World Series, is among the top free-agent options, as are Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn — it certainly is not an impossibility that Tanaka would score big on the market.
Tanaka, who turned 29 Wednesday, is 52-28 with a 3.56 ERA in four years with the Yankees. He went 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA in 2017, by far his highest in the big leagues.
After striking out 15 in seven shutout innings in his final regular-season start, he was terrific this postseason, going 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA in three starts. In two of the outings, Game 3 of the ALDS against the Indians and Game 5 of the ALCS against the Astros, he produced seven shutout innings. So in his final four 2017 starts, he allowed two runs, 13 hits and three walks in 27 innings, striking out 33.
However, there always has been lingering concern in the industry about the slight UCL tear Tanaka suffered in July 2014 and the possibility that Tommy John surgery is inevitable at some point.
The Yankees could do something similar to what they did with CC Sabathia in 2011 when he had an out clause, tacking on additional years and money to the original deal.
But as the offseason progresses, keep in mind that managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner seems determined to get under the $197-million luxury tax threshold.
What happens with Tanaka is far from the only theater that will play out early in the offseason for the Yankees. First and foremost, the franchise is looking for a manager for the first time since after the 2007 season. Joe Girardi was informed last week that he would not be offered a new contract.
Since then, many in the sport have expressed surprise about how close to the vest the Yankees have played things in terms of names of potential candidates leaking out, though Raul Ibañez and Jerry Hairston Jr. are two that have emerged in recent days. Many more names are sure to trickle out in the coming days.
When the Yankees let Girardi go, they also informed the members of his coaching staff that they were free to talk to other teams. One prominent coach already has jumped. Third-base coach Joe Espada, brought aboard by general manager Brian Cashman before the 2015 season, left to take the job of Astros bench coach, a move first reported by ESPN Deportes before Game 7 of the World Series. That job opened when Alex Cora was hired to manage the Red Sox.
One position the Yankees have filled is the one vacated by Gary Denbo, who oversaw the club’s minor league system. After Denbo left his post to join Derek Jeter’s ownership group in Miami, the Yankees went in-house to replace him, hiring Kevin Reese, who was the team’s director of professional scouting the last two years.