Should the Yankees consider trading Masahiro Tanaka?

The offseason is finally upon us and while headline moves may be delayed until the new CBA is settled, there has been no shortage in rumors swirling about the Yankees. With the free agent market looking rather lackluster, there has been a decent amount of speculation that the Yankees may look to address their roster needs through the likes of a trade. Brett Gardner and Brian McCann (McCann has now been moved) have dominated the trade talk surrounding the Yankees and while I believe both should be moved, I feel the Yankees should take it one step further and see what they could get for the often overlooked Masahiro Tanaka.
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Tanaka had a stellar year in 2016 and came within .07 points of the ERA title, pitching to a 3.07 ERA with 165 punch outs in 199.2 innings. These numbers are unquestionably elite and there can be an argument made that he belonged amongst American League Cy Young finalists. For whatever reason, Tanaka seems to fly under the radar. Perhaps it's the result of his home run problem which didn't exactly go away this year (22 given up), but aside from that, Tanaka has been an ace level pitcher whether it's recognized or not.

With all this said, why on earth would the Yankees look to move him? Supply and demand. With Jeremy Hellickson accepting the Phillies qualifying offer, the free agent starting pitching available is beyond uninspiring.

For this reason the White Sox, Rays, and Athletics are poised to bring in massive returns should they move Chris Sale, Chris Archer, and Sonny Gray. Based purely off this season, I think Tanaka would rank second in that group behind Chris Sale in terms of performance alone.

A factor that should also be motivating the Yankees towards moving Tanaka is the fact that he has an opt out clause after the 2017 season that he would almost surely exercise should he maintain his current numbers.

In a sense this could work against the Yankees and potentially lessen a return on a trade, but the Yankees could still get one or two solid prospects to move the ace to a team in need of starting pitching. I feel it would be better to deal him and get something back than to risk losing him to the opt out clause and have nothing for his loss.

As far as his potential contribution to the Yankees for the 2017, his performance - however good - may be irrelevant. The Yankees have more than a few holes and question marks on the roster and with the Yankees not projected to make any major splashes or improvements, the team is likely looking at another year out of contention while their youngsters adjust to the big leagues. For all these reasons, I feel it would behoove the Yankees to explore moving Tanaka and see if bringing in one or two legit, MLB ready prospects is a possibility.

This is purely speculation, but a few teams that might be interested in acquiring the Japanese righty include the Nationals, Dodgers, and Giants.

Article by: Nick Scott
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