Masahiro Tanaka's decision to return to the Yankees was more about how he feels inside than it was about dollar signs.
The 29-year-old had the option of opting out of the seven-year, $155 million contract he signed with New York in 2014. However, after enjoying a resurgent second half and then taking the eventual World Series champion Astros to Game 7 of the ALCS, Tanaka decided to remain in the Bronx.
"We went into battle with these guys, last year especially," Tanaka said. "My thought was I want to go out and battle with these guys again and try to really get to where we want to get."
The decision appears to already be paying dividends for Tanaka, who might have been a victim to what has become an historically slow and relatively unprofitable Hot Stove for free agents this year. The native of Itami, Japan will earn $22 million in each of the next two seasons and $23 million in 2020.
"You want to be here or you want to be wherever and get ready for the season," Tanaka said. "On that note I think it was good for me to know where I'm going. You would never know that after the season was over that it was going turn out something like this."
Tanaka went 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA (4.34 FIP) and a career-high 194 strikeouts in 2017, although he did allow 35 home runs. The right-hander posted an 0.90 ERA in three starts postseason starts, striking out 18 and walking only three in 20 innings.
Tanaka is hungry for a title and can see that the Yankees present one of the better options to attain one. While Tanaka may have made the right decision by avoiding this free agent market, it's a wonder if the Yankees would have benefitted from his departure considering the questions about his 2017 performance and the downturn in the market.
The Yankees are still looking to add a starting pitcher and are reportedly willing to spend another $15 million this offseason. If Tanaka's salary was off the books -- giving the Yankees about $37 million to spend -- combined with the bargain market, the team could add two starters of similar ilk to Tanaka and potentially have some cash left over.
In the end, New York is probably comfortable with Tanaka back in the rotation as he is the pitcher they have witnessed succeeding in pinstripes vs one (or two) they hope can.