The floodgates are open. It only took three months, but the New York Yankees have finally made legitimate MLB roster moves in the last few days. DJ LeMahieu is back, and the timing of his deal fell perfectly in line with the team deciding to bring Corey Kluber to the Bronx.
The only problem with that? The Yankees don’t have a whole lot more to spend until they hit the luxury tax threshold. And while nothing is set in stone, it could perhaps signal the team’s stance on Masahiro Tanaka, who is reportedly looking for $15 million per year for his next contract.
If we are to look at this objectively with our love for Tanaka aside, it certainly feels like the addition of Kluber all but officially means the veteran right-hander’s seven-year tenure in the Bronx is coming to an end.
MLB insider Ken Rosenthal spoke on the matter and alluded to that fateful Game 2 of the ALDS against the Rays in which the Yankees opted to start Deivi Garcia over Tanaka in that weird opener move that derailed the series:
"“The Yankees wanted to space out their two veteran starters, right-handers Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka, in part to avoid heavy bullpen usage in potential back-to-back elimination situations in Games 3 and 4. But looking back, the decision also might have signaled eroding faith in Tanaka, who received an extra day’s rest after struggling in the wild-card round against the Indians, albeit in a start twice delayed by rain. Would the Yankees have chosen the same plan if they viewed Cole and Tanaka the way the Dodgers view, say, Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw?“Tanaka, too, is a free agent, and perhaps the Yankees are wary of whatever price they believe he will command. But in Kluber, who agreed to a one-year contract for a not-so-incidental $11 million, pending a physical, they are committing to a pitcher who threw only 36 2/3 innings the past two seasons, including just one last season.”"
There’s also the report that Tanaka has spoken to the San Diego Padres as he continues to explore his options in free agency. Sure, that does sound like standard operating procedure for the offseason, but if you look at the case of LeMahieu, we constantly received updates in regard to where he stood with the Yankees. We’ve got nothing for Tanaka. Zilch.
It speaks volumes that the Yankees would rather take an $11 million risk on a 35-year-old who has made just seven starts in the past two seasons rather than go $15 million for someone who’s been rock solid for them across seven years. Is it the right move? We don’t know.
But if anything, it’s beginning to clarify their feelings toward Tanaka as they look to re-tool the roster and make it a World Series contender.