Masahiro Tanaka must notify the Yankees by midnight on Saturday if he's opting out of his contract.
Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees in 2014. The contract includes a full no-trade close and the ability to opt out after four seasons.
The 29-year-old endured an up-and-down 2017, starting poorly but ending strongly with playoff performances.
In the regular season, Tanaka was 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA and 1.24 WHIP with 194 strikeouts in 178 innings. His ERA was his highest since joining the Yankees by more than a full run. But in the playoffs, Tanaka gave up just two runs in 20 innings pitched across three starts, with 18 strikeouts.
My suspicion is that the Yankees will not work out an extension and Tanaka will opt out of his deal.
At the moment, the top names in the free agent market for starting pitchers are Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish. If Tanaka opts out, he could be considered anywhere from No. 1 to No. 3 in the starting pitcher market. In a baseball world where talent of Tanaka's caliber is at a premium - at age 29 no less - it would seem that he'll be able to net more than the $67 million he is owed over the next three seasons.
However, Tanaka's situation offers no assurances. Tanaka has been pitching with a slight tear of the ulnar collateral ligament for at least three-plus seasons (diagnosed in 2014). Tanaka's UCL may never completely tear, or it could on his next pitch. Further, Tanaka endured the roughest stretch of his career in 2017. Tanaka pitched to a 5.47 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in the first half of the season (102 innings), allowing 23 home runs during the span. That was enough to bring speculation about his forthcoming decision.
Fortunately for Tanaka, he was much better over his final 12 starts (3.77 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 91 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings) and was dominant in the postseason (20 IP, 2 ER, 18 K). Tanaka demonstrated that he could still anchor a rotation and pitch under the pressure of the playoffs, which could go a long way in negotiations.
Despite this, the Yankees are looking to remain fiscally responsible. In my opinion, if the Yankees wish to re-sign Tanaka should he opt out, the deal they offer might be in the four-year, $80-84 million neighborhood and they would be hesitant to push to five years, $100-105 million, which is what it might take.