The Yankees need Masahiro Tanaka in the rotation next season.
The Yankees, technically, have only one “veteran” starter in the rotation at the moment, and that man is Gerrit Cole. As we’ve seen with the Bombers, they require familiarity and continuity in that. department, which means they need to bring Masahiro Tanaka back.
General manager Brian Cashman has made it known that DJ LeMahieu is the team’s top priority this offseason, but that should not stop the Yankees from re-signing the man who has helped hold down the fort for the last seven years.
After all, the Yankees current projected starting rotation is less than ideal. Unless there are grander plans we don’t know about, this unit will not be capable of winning a World Series.
Cole, great! But then you have Jordan Montgomery, Domingo German, Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt/Michael King. We’re really not sure how that’s a top-10 rotation in baseball.
While the Yankees expect to see Severino come back at some point in June or July, he’s coming off Tommy John surgery, and any contributions from him should be treated as a bonus.
Cashman has said that the Yankees need to add more “certain” innings going into 2021, and no one should be higher on their list of affordable starters than Tanaka. Since coming over from Japan in 2014, Tanaka has been a constant within the Yankees rotation, posting a 3.74 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 174 games. That sort of consistency is exactly what the Yankees need to stabilize the rotation.
Tanaka is still a very effective pitcher going into his age-32 season and his crafty pitching style bodes well for his longevity. Though 2020 was hardly a special showing from the Japanese right-hander, it’s clear he’s just a few tweaks away from logging another All-Star campaign.
One of the major adjustments we have seen is with his slider. According to Baseball Savant, Tanaka has increased his slider usage every year since 2015. Not only is the slider his most frequently used pitch — he threw it 37.7% of the time in 2020 — it also became his best punch-out pitch. Tanaka had a 40.6% whiff percentage on his slider this season.
For most of his career, the splitter has been Tanaka’s primary swing-and-miss pitch, but we saw a major change in 2020. These types of adjustments bode well moving forward into the second phase of his career.
The good news is he has all but eliminated every other team from his list. According to reports, Tanaka either wants to play for the Yankees or go back to play in Japan. This means that the Yankees can avoid a bidding war with teams such as the Angels or Mets for his services.
Bringing back Tanaka on a short-term contract ranging between 2-3 years seems like it would be a perfect fit for both sides. Tanaka is also major part of the Yankees clubhouse. By all accounts, he’s one of the most liked players on the team, and it helps that he and Gerrit Cole appear to get along well.
As one of the most likable Yankees we have seen over the last half-decade, it feels like he needs to be back in pinstripes for the remainder of his MLB career.
Get it done, Cashman.