Masahiro Tanaka exercises option to remain with Yankees through 2020

Masahiro Tanaka is staying with the Yankees through 2020 after exercising his contract option. (AP)

Masahiro Tanaka is staying with the New York Yankees, the team announced in a press release on Friday. The 29-year-old right-hander had until midnight on Saturday to exercise a three-year, $67 million option to remain with the team, or to opt-out and choose free agency.


“I have decided to stay with the Yankees for the next three seasons,” Tanaka said in the release. It was a simple decision for me as I have truly enjoyed the past four years playing for this organization and for the wonderful fans of New York.”

“I’m excited to continue to be a part of this team, and I’m committed to our goal of bringing a World Series Championship back to the Steinbrenner family, the Yankees organization, and the great fans of New York.”

Though Tanaka called the decision an easy one, there remained a lot of speculation about what he would ultimately do. There was next to no indication which way this would go until the final decision was actually made. Tanaka himself admitted to not fully knowing what the decision would mean for him after the Yankees season ended two weeks ago. 

Tanaka’s decision vastly changes the outlook for the starting pitching market in free agency. Had Tanaka opted for free agency, he would move into the top tier of pitchers available, along with Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. This is great news for their prospects. Teams will also be closely watching to see if Shohei Ohtani, who’s often referred to as Japan’s Babe Ruth, is posted this winter.

It was reported in August that the Yankees didn’t plan to pursue Tanaka if he opted for free agency. They might be feeling somewhat better about the situation now though following Tanaka’s excellent performance in the postseason.

Tanaka posted a 0.90 ERA in three postseason starts. That was after striking out 15 Blue Jays in his final start during the regular season. The strong finish reminded everyone of Tanaka’s overpowering start with the Yankees in 2014, right after originally signing his seven-year, $155 million deal.

Of course, the elephant in the room is Tanaka’s elbow. He’s been pitching with a partial tear in the UCL in his right elbow since 2014. He’s avoided Tommy John surgery so far, but chances are that will be in his future. That likely factored into his decision, as teams may have shied away knowing his elbow could conceivably give out at any time.

Another factor is Tanaka’s comfort in New York, which he reiterated in his statement. Playing in the Big Apple is not everyone’s cup of tea, but Tanaka enjoys the city and enjoys wearing the Yankees pinstripes. Now we’ll see if the team and fanbase end up happy he chose to stay with them.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!