It could be the Yankees or Japan for free agent pitching star

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka
Oct 12, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) reacts against the Houston Astros in the second inning in game one of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have several holes to fill in the rotation because they lost three-fifths of their 2020 rotation to free agency. James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and Masahiro Tanaka are now free to sign with any team for the 2021 campaign and beyond.

Tanaka, precisely, is needed in the Bronx, but the Yankees have been waiting to re-sign infielder DJ LeMahieu to focus on other areas of need.

The seven-year deal Tanaka signed with the Yankees before the 2014 season is now on the books. In 174 games and 173 starts, he pitched 1054.1 innings of a 3.74 ERA and a 3.91 FIP, with an 8.46 K/9 and a 1.78 BB/9. The stellar import accumulated 18.9 fWAR over that span.

Now, according to NJ Advance Media, Tanaka could opt to return to Japan if he doesn’t re-sign with the Yankees. Returning to New York appears to be his first choice, but the Bombers are playing the waiting game and Tanaka may not want to.

Tanaka wants to return to the Yankees

Here is the NJ Advance Media report: “There’s a good chance that Tanaka will either re-sign with the Yankees or play in Japan next season for his old Pacific League team, a source close to the pitcher told NJ Advance Media. The source, who didn’t want his name made public, added that Tanaka wants to return to the Yankees and isn’t interested in playing for a team that won’t contend next season, regardless of money.”

The New York Mets and the Los Angeles Angels are in need of some starting pitching, but it is unlikely that Tanaka goes to another United States team that isn’t the Yankees.

“The source added that it’s unlikely Tanaka will sign with the Angels, who already have fellow Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, a pitcher/designated hitter. Also, the source stated Tanaka has had plans for years to end his playing career with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, his club from 2007-13. If he returns to the Yanks, he’ll probably to have to settle for a one- or two-year deal for around $12M annually tops,” the article said.