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What can the Yankees expect from Masahiro Tanaka over the rest of his contract?

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With Tanaka opting in, the Yankees have to hope he matches his recent success.

League Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Five Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

It’s just the very beginning of the offseason, but it already feels like there’s a massive weight off the Yankees’ shoulders. Masahiro Tanaka decided not to opt out of his seven-year, $155 million contract that originally brought him stateside. He will play the next three seasons in pinstripes.

Tanaka has long been a fan favorite, and this October cemented that. Of course he got labeled as injury-prone when he underwent PRP therapy in 2014 to help repair a partially torn UCL. Since that point he has had a 115 ERA+, and a 118 ERA+ in his major league career. He had a terribly poor 2017, to the tune of a 4.74 ERA, but he finished strong with a 3.77 ERA in the second half and a 0.90 ERA in the postseason.

After that incredible postseason, where he allowed just two earned runs over 20 innings, questions regarding his free agent stock bubbled to the surface. Some thought he could command up to $100 million, complete with another opt-out two or three years down the line. Instead he decided to take the final three years and $67 million of the Yankees’ deal, and we know one reason he stayed:

Being in a place you like is important. He loves New York and came one game away from a pennant. For someone who pitched at Koshien, won the Japan Series, and won the World Baseball Classic, he’s looking for that final milestone in baseball.

This is good news for the Yankees, not only because his postseason was a really good sign, but also because it gives them certainty to start the offseason. Nearly every position player is filled, depending how you look at third base, and they really only have to fill one starter spot at minimum; everything else is extra.

That doesn’t mean the outcome is free of possible side-effects. Notably among them is that the average annual value is quite possibly higher than what he would have received in free agency. That makes the luxury tax goal a little more difficult to attain.

The other possibility is that Tanaka was betting against his own health. While liking the club was definitely part of it, opt-outs serve that dual purpose. You can leave if you don’t like the city or if you want more money, and you can stay if you think you’re worse off on the open market. If he felt he’d have an issue with teams peeking at the medicals, or that they would implement a Lackey Clause to constrict his future earnings, then maybe this was the best option.

That’s why the Yankees are pretty much all-or-nothing on his health, and they’re going to have to hope Tanaka’s former issues don’t continue to crop up.

One of those is the home run, of course. Other than his stellar 2016 he has seen his home run rate climb and climb. Part of that is because of the juiced ball, I would imagine, and his pitching style doesn’t exactly help. Sitting on the sinker more often hurt him, but then he adjusted:

Tanaka is a starter who pitches backwards, relying heavily on his slider and an offspeed arsenal. He goes to his straight fastball or sinker to only keep batters guessing. His repertoire can really fool a batter’s eyesight.

Health and continual adjustments are going to define the latter part of Tanaka’s tenure with the Yankees, and I have faith he can do that. He made adjustments and fought through the thickets of October, now he just needs to continue that straight into 2018 and beyond.