It's decision time for Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka


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USA TODAY

NEW YORK – Don’t expect a contract extension for Masahiro Tanaka.

Either the right-hander remains on his current Yankees deal, or he opts out of the final three years and $67 million to become a free agent.

The decision is up to Tanaka, who must inform the Yankees by Saturday.

Tanaka, who turned 29 on Wednesday, has the contractual right to opt out of the remainder of his seven-year, $155 million contract signed prior to the 2014 season.

Given the current tenor, Tanaka might be inclined to trigger his opt-out clause, based on his 0.90 ERA over three starts this postseason and a light free-agent market for significant starting pitching – currently led by Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta.

Power-hitting/power-throwing Shohei Otani could be an intriguing free agent target if he is posted by his Japan League club. 

Faced with a similar opt-out decision after the 2011 season, CC Sabathia agreed to an extension with the Yankees. But the idea of an extension for Tanaka isn’t a likely scenario, according to a source familiar with the situation. 

Statistically, Tanaka is also coming off his most uneven MLB regular season, going 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA and 35 home runs yielded in 30 starts.

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Tanaka bounced back after a brief DL stint in August due to arm fatigue, but there are always back-of-the-mind concerns about the slight elbow ligament tear diagnosed in the midseason of 2014, which the right-hander rehabbed without surgery.

Yankees starters Luis Severino, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery are under contract for 2018, and Sabathia has expressed a strong desire to return to the rotation.

On Thursday, Sabathia, fellow lefty Jaime Garcia, right-hander Michael Pineda, third baseman Todd Frazier and designated hitter Matt Holliday all became free agents.

Of that group, only Sabathia is likely to return, and on a one-year contract.

Garcia didn’t win a start after being acquired from Minnesota at the trade deadline, and Pineda underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery. 

Holliday had just three postseason at-bats, concluding a second half riddled by injury and illness following a productive first half.

Holliday has said he wants to play somewhere 2018, but it’s not likely to be in the Bronx, where the Yankees might prefer a rotating DH spot to partially rest veterans and catcher Gary Sanchez, while keeping their bats in the lineup.

Frazier was a vocal clubhouse presence and an on-field leader, providing a spark at third base after being acquired by the White Sox at the trade deadline. 

But corner infielder Chase Headley has a year remaining on his contract and prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are pushing closer to the Bronx.

Earlier Thursday, the Yankees reportedly tabbed pro scouting director Kevin Reese to replace Gary Denbo as vice president of player development. Denbo was hired away by new Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter.



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