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Ask Pinstripe Alley 12/5/16: What should the Yankees do with Masahiro Tanaka?

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Should the Yankees keep, trade, or extend Tanaka?

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Early last week I asked for questions for our PSA mailbag, and a lot of questions were submitted in the comments section and via email. Since so many questions were submitted, I decided to split my answers into two posts. If your question isn’t answered this go around, it might be answered in the next round.

TommyJohn asked: Tanaka - Keep, trade, or extend?

In case anyone doesn’t know, Masahiro Tanaka’s seven-year contract with the Yankees includes an opt-out after the 2017 season. I think that it would be in the team’s best interest to extend him. He is coming off of an excellent season with the Yankees, and he is by and far their best pitcher. Keep in mind that the Yankees’ 2018 rotation would be empty without Tanaka since CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda will both hit free agency after 2017.

The only thing potentially worrisome about Tanaka is his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. However, that was revealed in 2014 and he is still fine. He had to have surgery to remove a bone spur following the 2015 season, but he was healthy in 2016 (other than being shutdown with forearm tightness during the last two weeks of the season). It would certainly be unfortunate if Tanaka’s UCL tore completely, but this could also happen to any pitcher at any time. I think the Yankees should at least start a conversation with Tanaka and try to get him extended before the season ends, or reach an understanding that they will re-sign him if he opts out.

TheJRod2006 asked: What’s more likely this offseason…the Yankees dipping under the luxury tax threshold, or they make a splash with Encarnacion, Hill, Chapman and have a payroll that is roughly 200 million dollars next year?

Before the Matt Holliday deal broke, I thought that both scenarios were within the realm of possibility. There was a lot of buzz about the Yankees trying to get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold following the 2013 season, and we all know how that went. They ended up signing Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran.

It is difficult to predict whether the Holliday contract is a sign of more free agent signings to come. It does seem to be a fairly conservative deal though, considering that the Yankees could have gone all-in on a multi-year, expensive deal for Edwin Encarnacion instead. Maybe they opted to save money on a DH so that they can throw all of the money at a closer.

Zachary asked: Do the Yanks even need to sign a DH? Why not DH Austin/Bird while the other plays 1B or Judge, Ellsbury, or Gardner when Hicks plays in their spots? Gardner and Ellsbury could certainly use some games off the field to stay healthy.

I originally wrote my response to this question before the Yankees signed Holliday, and I was in favor of signing a DH because the lineup has been lackluster for a few years now. I like that it is a one-year deal, which keeps the Yankees’ options open in the long-term. I don’t disagree that a rotating DH spot could be useful in terms of getting Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner some rest, but there are a lot of question marks surrounding Tyler Austin, Greg Bird, and Aaron Judge, so I think this was a good decision.

Shaq asked: With all these talks about Hal & Co wanting to decrease budget below $189MM if the season started today what is their current budget?

According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Yankees owe $136,150,000 to players in 2017. This includes the $21 million that Alex Rodriguez has left on his contract, and the $5.5 million that the Yankees agreed to pay the Astros as part of their trade for Brian McCann. Now that the Yankees have signed Holliday, that number jumps up to $149,150,000.

The Yankees also have seven players who are arbitration eligible. Those salary agreements probably won’t be reached until January and February, so the best I can do is use the salary projections that MLB Trade Rumors has come up with. According to their projections, the Yankees will pay approximately $22,100,000 to their arbitration-eligible players. So, if the season started today they would be in the $171 million range.