Report Said Team Would Not Pursue Ace If He Chose To Become A Free Agent After This Season

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Yankees are denying a report that they will not pursue ace Masahiro Tanaka if he opts out of his contract after this season.

The Daily News reported that the Yankees’ brass is not thrilled by the tactics of Tanaka’s agent, Casey Close, for using the potential for an opt-out as leverage.

“I just don’t see Hal (Steinbrenner) going there,” a source told the newspaper. “He’s still smarting from the (CC) Sabathia and (Mark) Teixeira deals.”

But Steinbrenner, team president Randy Levine and general manager Brian Cashman told the Post the report is not true.

“It ain’t on my radar screen right now — an entire season to play,” Steinbrenner said.

“I never heard any of this,’’ added Levine. “We normally don’t move until the event.’’

“There is nothing to hold over our heads because we haven’t negotiated it,’’ Cashman told the Post. “I have the utmost respect for Casey Close and his office. I don’t know where this came from. We haven’t had any discussions of an opt-out.’’

Right now, among their top three starters, the Yankees have just Tanaka signed beyond 2017. The 28-year-old Japanese right-hander signed a seven-year, $155 contract with New York prior to the 2014 season, but it contained a clause that would allow him to opt out after the fourth year. Tanaka is scheduled to make $22 million in 2018 and 2019, and $23 million in 2020.

Veterans Sabathia and Michael Pineda will be free agents after this season. Beyond that, the Bombers have a number of younger pitchers they hope can form a solid core down the road.

The Yankees reportedly have been looking to bolster their rotation, but were not enamored by any of the free agents available over the winter and asking prices on the trade front have been too steep to this point.

[graphiq id=”3U4EwelyKAR” title=”Masahiro Tanaka Career Earnings by Season” width=”600″ height=”559″ url=”” ]

Tanaka, who has lived up to his contract so far, going 39-17 with a 3.23 ERA in 76 starts over the last three-plus seasons, is coming off a brutal outing on Opening Day, allowing seven earned runs and eight hits over just 2 2/3 innings in a 7-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday.

There have been concerns about the partial ulnar collateral ligament tear in Tanaka’s elbow, an issue he has pitched through over the last few seasons. It has yet to prove problematic for the right-hander, but has been identified as a reason why he wouldn’t risk opting out of such a lucrative contract.

Tanaka is slated to make his second start of the season Saturday in Baltimore.

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