Masahiro Tanaka’s opt-out clause following the 2017 season looms large over any Yankees decisions on the pitching front this winter, writes ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand, as the team doesn’t have a reliable starter that is definitively under control beyond the current campaign. (Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia are free agents next offseason.) As Marchand notes, Tanaka’s situation illustrates the dangers that opt-out clauses present to teams; if Tanaka pitches well in 2017, he’ll have been a great four-year investment but will test the open market in search of a larger deal. If he performs poorly and/or gets injured, the Yankees will be stuck with the remaining three years and $64MM on the contract. And, of course, there’s no way to know which scenario will play out, thus making it more difficult to plan for the future as well. Marchand notes that the lack of arms locked in beyond 2017 could lead the Yankees to Rich Hill (though he comes with his own obvious uncertainties) but cautions that GM Brian Cashman is still not keen on using his newly bolstered farm to land someone like Chris Sale. Marchand also explores various bullpen scenarios that could play out for the Yankees this winter.
A few more notes out of the AL East…
- Aroldis Chapman tells NY Sports Day’s Ray Negron that he would “love to be a Yankee again,” expressing gratitude for the fact that the Yankees “took a chance” on him amid domestic abuse allegations. “The organization treated me first class, and the fans were like no other,” said Chapman of his time in New York. George A. King III of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have had multiple conversations with Chapman’s agent, Barry Praver, about a reunion, but to this point there’s been no formal offer extended by New York, nor has there been a proposal in terms of years and dollars from Chapman’s camp. It’s certainly possible that the Yankees — and many teams with serious interest in Chapman — are awaiting the results of the current wave of collective bargaining negotiations, which will reportedly bring a yet-unknown increase to the $189MM luxury tax barrier.
- The free agent market is presently flush with corner outfield/first base/designated hitter types, and the Yankees intend to closely monitor that market and take advantage, as the Orioles have done in the past, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. In recent years, we’ve seen the O’s wait out the first base/rightfield/DH market and land affordable contracts for players like Pedro Alvarez (one year, $5MM last winter) and Nelson Cruz (one year, $8MM prior to the 2014 season). With names like Carlos Beltran, Brandon Moss, Mike Napoli, Steve Pearce, Matt Holliday, Trevor Plouffe, Mitch Moreland, Adam Lind, Logan Morrison and Justin Morneau among the available corner names, is does indeed seem possible that the Yankees could end up with a bargain on their hands by exercising some patience. Olney tweeted last week after the Brian McCann trade that the Yankees’ focus was on pitching, though they would very much like to bring Beltran back to the Bronx.