Masahiro Tanaka has been the consummate professional during his seven-year tenure with the New York Yankees. He came to the United States as a 25-year old pitching star in his native Japan, and so far, he has been able to accumulate fantastic numbers in the major leagues: a 3.74 ERA, a 3.91 FIP, a 3.52 xFIP, and 18.9 fWAR.
Now at 32 years old, Tanaka is looking at a strange free agency period. He wants to come back to the Yankees, but he wants at least $15 million (ideally, it would be something closer to $20 million) and the team, fresh off giving $11 million to Corey Kluber, won’t match that.
As a result, he is widely expected to sign with another team, most likely in Japan, that can offer him what he wants. However, don’t take him out of the equation entirely. Yes, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that while there’s a “good chance” he pitches elsewhere, the Yankees are still in touch with Masahiro Tanaka.
A reunion is extremely unlikely, though. Tanaka isn’t the same pitcher he was in his twenties. Yes, he had a good 3.56 ERA in the 2020 short season, but he also finished with his highest FIP so far, at 4.42.
Will Tanaka leave the Yankees?
There is “strong interest” in Tanaka from Japan, where he starred for years before coming to the Yankees. However, don’t dismiss the option of him signing with another MLB team. It is also unlikely, but the pitcher himself didn’t rule it out.
In fact, with so many pitching-starved teams (the Toronto Blue Jays and the Los Angeles Angels come to mind) it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see the talented right-hander staying in the States.
If the Angels lose out on Bauer, for example, Tanaka would be a logical target. Even if they do sign the reining NL Cy Young, they could also bring the former Yankees’ star.
For now, the reality indicates that the Yankees are unlikely to bring back Tanaka after seven very successful seasons in the Bronx. But there is still a tiny chance it happens.