Posted on November 4, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

New York Yankees Masahiro Tanaka

Image via cbssports.com

Less than 48 hours into the baseball offseason, the New York Yankees are breathing a sigh of relief. Starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has decided not to opt out of contract and become a free agent. Instead, he will stay with the Yankees, who will pay him $67 million over the next three seasons. For the Yankees, it’s a huge boost to a starting rotation that will still have a couple vacancies to fill this offseason.

“I have decided to stay with the Yankees for the next three seasons,” Tanaka said in a statement. “It was a simple decision for me as I have truly enjoyed the past four years playing for this organization and for the wonderful fans of New York.”

Following New York’s elimination in the ALCS, having Tanaka opt out and losing him in free agency was a real possibility for the Yankees. Despite some struggles early in the season, Tanaka posted a 3.77 ERA after the all-star break, increasing his value on the open market. He followed that up by going 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA in three postseason starts.

On the heels of a fantastic postseason, Tanaka would have been one of the top starting pitchers on the market alongside Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. Even if he couldn’t guarantee a yearly salary as high as he’s making with his current deal, Tanaka could have signed a deal with more guaranteed money. However, he has decided to stay loyal to the Yankees, the only team he’s known since coming to the big leagues in 2014.

“I’m excited to continue to be a part of this team,” Tanaka said in his statement. “I’m committed to our goal of bringing a World Series championship back to the Steinbrenner family, the Yankees organization and the great fans of New York.”

Tanaka will now team up with Sonny Gray and Luis Severino at the top of New York’s rotation in 2018. Those three have the potential to be as good as any starting trio in baseball. However, the rest of the rotation remains unsettled at the moment.

Young lefty Jordan Montgomery appears to be a good bet to fill out the back end of the rotation after making 29 starts this season. But the Yankees still have to figure out their fifth starter and find some rotation depth. Prospects Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, and Domingo Acevedo may all get an opportunity to compete for a rotation spot during spring training. But none of those three have any major league experience.

It’s possible that the Yankees will explore the free agent market in search of a back-end starter. One potential option is C.C. Sabathia, who is back on the open market after nine years with the Yankees. Sabathia has said he would be open to re-signing with the Yankees, but it’s unclear if the team views him as one of the top options available. Even if it’s not Sabathia, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Yankees sign at least one free agent starter.

With New York’s rotation less than settled for next season, it was critical that Tanaka return. His return should bring stability to the team’s rotation. If he continues to pitch the way he did during the second half of 2017, Tanaka can be the team’s ace season and an important part of the Yankees for the next three years.

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