Looking Ahead to the Next Potential Yankees Fire Sale

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Jul 22, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) pitches during the fourth inning of an inter-league baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 22, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) pitches during the fourth inning of an inter-league baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

Masahiro Tanaka

While I would much prefer the Yankees explore an extension with their best player this offseason, there’s no denying that Masahiro Tanaka would bring an enormous return next summer if the club made him available. What contender couldn’t use an extra front-of-the-rotation arm?

The 28-year-old ace put up his first full, healthy season as a major leaguer in 2016, pitching to a 3.07 ERA and 3.51 FIP in 199.2 IP (31 GS), striking out 20.5% of the batters he faced (8.1 K/9), walking 4.5% (1.6 BB/9). He was also much better about keeping the ball in the park (1.0 HR/9), something that was an Achilles heel his previous season (1.5 HR/9). He was worth 5.4 wins above replacement according to Baseball-Reference.

It’s hard to imagine that a half-season of Tanaka would net the Yankees less than a half-season of Aroldis Chapman last year, so one top 20 prospect, another top 100 guy, plus secondary pieces seems like a good starting point. It seems like a good opportunity for the front office to finally find the long-term rotation building block they’ve been looking for.

The best starters dealt at last year’s trade deadline were Drew Pomeranz and Rich Hill, neither of whom have anywhere near Tanaka’s track record. The 2015 David Price deal is probably closer, where Detroit acquired 40% of their 2016 rotation in Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd, as well as promising minor league lefty Jairo Labourt.

Frontline starters in their prime are not easy to come by, so I’d much rather see New York try and build around Tanaka for the next few years, but if they know he’s going to opt out and aren’t going to pony up the money to keep him, they might as well get what they can for him.