1. Masahiro Tanaka
The Yankees letting Masahiro Tanaka go just feels wrong.
The Yankees have pieced together a bundle of high-upside rotation options, a cost-effective plan we’ve very much enjoyed following.
They could, however, still use a “guaranteed” 180 innings in the middle to help them get through a full season with more security — or, at least, as close to a guarantee as one can get, barring injuries.
Masahiro Tanaka sure would’ve helped!
You can talk yourself out of Tanaka’s return with regressive metrics and by committing to memory his duds while neglecting his postseason dominance. If you’d like to worry about his splitter coming across on a flatter plane, you can do so.
But there was likely a way to gain some stability by offering Tanaka a few million dollars more to stay in America with the Yankees instead of returning to Japan a few years ahead of schedule. There was interest here, but it wasn’t mutual.
MLB treated Tanaka, a legitimate three or four starter with his current arsenal, like a junkballer this offseason. In fact, upon his departure, he revealed he’d received an offer to try out as a closer somewhere, Koji Uehara-style. Flat-out bizarre.
If Rob Manfred had snapped his fingers and removed the luxury tax penalty for one glorious mid-pandemic season, Tanaka would still be a Yankee. The only reason he moved on was the cost, and he would’ve filled the most glaring need the Yanks still maintain.
Even if he’s no longer a rotation’s second banana, letting him depart the league — and the continent — was a clear whiff.