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yankees logo featureGiven the enormous potential consequences for the playoff races in the American League, and thus the trade market, and given the obvious Chicago Cubs connection, I thought this worth sharing.

The New York Post reports that New York Yankees righty Masahiro Tanaka is heading back to New York after his latest start to get an MRI on his right arm. That sound you hear is every single Yankees fan hitting the floor after passing out with panic.

There are no details beyond the fact of the MRI – which doesn’t always yield bad news, mind you – but Tanaka has been scuffling a bit (relatively speaking) in his last four starts. Is it because he was feeling a little something? Possibly, given the MRI. But let’s not go too far with the speculation game just yet.

If Tanaka misses time, the Yankees are going to be in serious trouble. Given their tattered rotation and softened playoff hopes, I’m not sure there’s a more individually important player in baseball right now (for his team, I mean). The Yankees are 3.5 back in the Wild Card and 4.0 back in the AL East, just one game over .500. If they lose Tanaka, do they get desperate and pick up another arm or two (Edwin Jackson?), or do they retrench and wave the white flag?

It will be very interesting to see how things shake out.

And then there’s the other thing …

As you undoubtedly recall (and have fever dreams about), the Cubs were the runner-up in the Tanaka sweepstakes. According to sources, they were willing to roughly match the Yankees’ offer in total dollars, but they were not willing to include the opt-out after four years. Tanaka’s ultimate deal with the Yankees was nominally seven years and $155 million – pricey enough – but it was actually much steeper. First, you have to tack on the $20 million posting fee the Yankees paid to Tanaka’s team in Japan. Then you have to consider that the opt-out actually makes this a four-year deal with a three-year player option on the end.

Should Tanaka be great and leave after four years, he will have cost the Yankees $108 million for those four years. Should Tanaka struggle – or break – the Yankees will be at $175 million over seven years.

Did the Cubs make the right move by holding the line on the opt-out? I thought yes, even before there was a situation like this MRI business. In that way, it would be intellectually dishonest to say that the Cubs were even more right if Tanaka is injured. They made the best decision they could at the time with the information they had. And one of the risks they were undoubtedly considering: pitchers break, and Tanaka has thrown a ton of pitches in his career (without yet having a major arm injury).

We’ll see what happens with the MRI. Don’t be the person who gloats about an injury, though. The Cubs wanted Tanaka, and this could have happened to them, too.

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