The pitching-starved New York Yankees continue to play the waiting game with their free agent targets, most notably DJ LeMahieu, and it could be a costly strategy. The infielder, however, is not the only player with an interest in returning to the Bronx.
Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who has played for the New York Yankees for the last seven seasons, is interested in a reunion. He is now a free agent, but general manager Brian Cashman has said that retaining LeMahieu is the priority.
That has left Tanaka in sort of a limbo. His priority is the Yankees, but he could also, according to reports, consider another MLB franchise or even a return to his native Japan, where he was a star until 2014, when he made the jump to the bigs.
In fact, according to Andy Martino of SNY, the option of going to Japan is beginning to gain more steam given the extremely slow MLB market and the Yankees’ apparent lack of action.
Martino wrote that “there continues to be informed speculation in the industry” that Masahiro Tanaka will pitch in Japan in the 2021 season.
The Yankees have been very passive to this point
Even Tanaka himself told the Japanese media shortly after the turn of the year that he was legitimately considering returning home. It could be a sound financial decision, too, as Nippon Professional Baseball teams have been far more active than MLB clubs to this point.
While he was a well-paid star for the Yankees, they refuse to go over a specific amount payroll-wise, which would limit their spending habits this offseason. That is the most likely scenario.
The 32-year old Tanaka finished 2020 with a 3.56 ERA and 44/8 K/BB ratio over 48 innings (10 starts) with the Yankees. Will the Bombers eventually make a move to retain him, or will he go home given the uncertain MLB market?