The Yankees and Masahiro Tanaka have not discussed a contract extension, general manager Brian Cashman told the Daily News. Tanaka will earn $22 million in the fourth year of a seven-year, $155 million deal he signed in 2014. The right-hander can opt out of the deal following the 2017 season.
"We have a significant contract with Masahiro Tanaka," Cashman said. "Hopefully he has a great year, and then he'll have a decision to make. If he doesn't, then he won't.
Tanaka went 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 31 starts for the Yankees last season.
The fact that the Yankees and Tanaka have not entered into extension discussions this offseason does not surprise me, but it does not mean the notion is moot and that they cannot begin doing so in the middle of the season.
The Yankees do not generally conduct business this way, but the club's situation in 2018 and beyond is unlike a typical scenario. Assuming Tanaka opts out, the Yankees could very well have zero starters entering the offseason with more than a season's worth of starts under their belts. The free agent market lacks a dearth of veterans and we have seen the astronomic prospect cost of obtaining pitchers of Tanaka's ilk via the trade market. If Tanaka is pitching to the same level as 2016 and none of the younger pitchers are stepping up, wouldn't the Yankees want to have one superior option returning for the future?
Beyond the traditional business reasoning of avoiding an extension, there is a legitimate chance that the Yankees try to convince Tanaka to waive his full no trade clause if the club is well out of the race in July. In this fashion, they could then choose to re-sign Tanaka as a free agent assuming health and performance remain positive. Again, considering the packages teams are receiving, it would make sense from the Yankees perspective. However, the Yankees run the risk of being unable to re-sign Tanaka if he hits the open market.
Personally, I would still gauge Tanaka's desires now. I do not believe a brief dialogue hurts either party and could lead to an easier negotiation should both sides desire continuing their partnership down the road. Nor does a discussion preclude the Yankees from declining to become serious about an extension as the season wears on.