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Offseason question: Will Masahiro Tanaka decide to opt out?

Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees walks to the dugout

Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees walks to the dugout during Game 5 of the ALCS agains the Astros at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Now that their offseason has begun, the Yankees’ first order of business will be deciding on the fates of general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi, each of whom is in the final year of his contract.

The second order of business will be waiting to see if Masahiro Tanaka opts out of the final three years and $67 million of his contract. Tanaka has to decide by three days after the conclusion of the World Series — the one that the Yankees are not a part of after their 4-0 loss to the Astros on Saturday night in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

Tanaka, who will turn 29 Nov. 1, enhanced his potential free-agent value with a boffo postseason. He went 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA in three starts and would have been in line to pitch Game 1 of the World Series.

His postseason mastery came after an uneven regular season in which he went 13-12 with a career-high 4.74 ERA. In four seasons with the Yankees, he is 52-28 with a 3.56 ERA in 105 starts.

If he opts out, Tanaka will jump to the top three of a free-agent class of starting pitchers that also includes Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish but is thin beyond that. Tanaka sounded intrigued about testing his value on the open market.

“From a player’s standpoint, you don’t truly understand how you are perceived by other teams, so I can’t give you a good answer,” Tanaka said through his translator after ALCS Game 7. “The season really was a grind and a fight throughout. I can say I didn’t step away from it. First time for me, so I don’t know how it is going to work out . . . Not at this point in time. Just disappointed in how things unfolded for us. I haven’t had a chance to think about my contract.”

Chances are his savvy agent, Casey Close, has had plenty of time to think about Tanaka’s contract, as has Cashman.

“Obviously, he’s been tremendous,” Cashman said. “But all next-season stuff is for another day. But he’s signed, and as we’ve talked about many times, he has a potential decision if he so chooses, and so we’ll wait to hear from him.”

The Yankees have Luis Severino, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery signed for their 2018 rotation. CC Sabathia is a free agent but said in the aftermath of his Game 7 defeat that he wants to return.

That leaves Tanaka. If he decides not to opt out, he stays. If he opts out, then the ball is in the Yankees’ court.

There have been no indications that the Yankees are looking to give Tanaka a new contract in exchange for not opting out, as they did with Sabathia before the 2012 season.

“Once ownership meets with us and decides what kind of strategy they want, then I’ll be in a better position to answer those questions,” Cashman said. “But he’s been tremendous so far for us. We’re very happy to have him and he has a contract that if he so chooses can opt out of. So he has decisions to make down the line, but again, that’s all for another day.”

Masahiro Tanaka’s regular-season numbers for his four seasons as a Yankee:


W-L 52-28

ERA 3.56

WHIP 1.097

New York Sports