After seven seasons with Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka reportedly close to returning to Japan’s Rakuten Eagles

Free-agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka might be close to returning to Japan’s Rakuten Eagles, reports Sankei Sports of Tokyo (translation via 

Tanaka, 32, began his professional career with the Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, where he pitched from 2007 through 2013, but then spent seven seasons with the New York Yankees in MLB. Over those seven seasons, Tanaka went 78-46 with a 3.74 ERA (114 ERA+) and a K/BB ratio of 4.76. Tanaka was a two-time All-Star with the Yankees, and he finished seventh in the AL Cy Young balloting in 2016. He also made 10 postseason starts for the Yankees with a 3.33 ERA. This past season, Tanaka made 10 starts across the abbreviated 60-game regular season with a 3.56 ERA and a 5.50 K/BB. Coming into the offseason, our R.J. Anderson ranked Tanaka 10th among all 2020-21 free agents in MLB. 

The Yankees figured to prioritize a Tanaka re-signing this offseason, but thus far there’s little indication that’s the case. They’ve signed Corey Kluber to a low-cost deal and swung a trade for Jameson Taillon. Given that the Yankees are prioritizing staying under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold, there’s likely no room in their budget for Tanaka. His stabilizing presence in the rotation will surely be missed. 

Tanaka no doubt is of interest to any number of MLB teams, but so few of those teams are willing to make even modest investments in the roster. Tanaka might be viewing the generally non-competitive landscape in MLB and determining that a return to his native country is his best option. That may well be close to happening. 


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