Report: Masahiro Tanaka, Rakuten Eagles in Advanced Talks

It appears we may be nearing the end of an era: Masahiro Tanaka is reportedly advancing talks to return to his original team, the Rakuten Eagles in Japan. So says Jim Allen, who translated a Japanese language report last night:

There are no other reported details at this time. I believe it, though. The Jameson Taillon trade all but ended any hope that the righty, who first joined the team in 2014, would return to the Bronx. If the Taillon trade didn’t convince you, then the Ottavino salary dump certainly should have. It essentially confirms that the Yankees do not want to exceed the $210 million luxury tax threshold, and there is virtually no way to fit Tanaka in that framework.

If this is the end of the Yankee-Tanaka marriage, it was a happy one. Tanaka, who signed a long-term deal with the Yanks in January 2014, was a dependable staple in the Yankee rotation for seven-years. Here are some of his rankings among 203 qualified starters since he came to New York:

  • Walk Rate: 4.8%, (10th)
  • Wins: 78 (14th)
  • fWAR: 19.0 (19th)
  • Innings: 1054.1 (22nd)
  • Starts: 173 (27th)

Overall, Tanaka posted a 78-46 record with a 3.74 ERA (3.91 FIP, 87 ERA-) in his Bronx tenure. He was dependable and always held himself accountable – all of which made him an immediate and enduring fan favorite. His incredible postseasons didn’t hurt, either.

Tanaka was also a steady presence with the Yankees. Just 5 players remain from the 2015 Yankees: Brett Gardner, Luis Severino, Adam Warren, Gary Sánchez, and Tanaka. Sánchez played in just two games, and while Warren and Severino were steady forces, Warren left (twice, and he’s back now!) and Severino hasn’t really pitched since 2018. Tanaka, by contrast, was always there. A Yankee through and through.

It will be a sad goodbye, in other words. It’s truly the end of an era. (I still think he’d fit on the 2021 team, but alas.) We will have a much more comprehensive retrospective soon, barring a major surprise. Until then, though, I leave you with a classic Tanaka gem.

(It won’t embed properly, so just click the link. It goes to highlights of Game 3 of the 2017 ALDS, as you likely guessed.)


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  1. dasit

    look who’s rocking frosted tips at 3:15 of the highlight video

  2. DanGer

    The highest paid player in NPB (Sugano) didn’t crack $6M so it’s clearly not about the money.

    You’re gonna tell me NY can’t spare $8M – $10M? You know like the $8M they just cleared by sending a very good reliever to a rival?

    I totally get passing on a long term deal but damn. Baseball really doesn’t make it easy to be a fan…

    • Dani

      Sugano signed a 4/40 contract this winter with 3 opt outs, wouldn’t surpise me if Tanaka signs a similar deal. If he has a great year in Japan he might be back in MLB next year.

      btw: the biggest contracts handed out to a FA starters so far are 2/18 for Mike Minor and 1/15 for Charlie Morton. Makes you wonder if MLB teams actually wanna spend the money Tanaka likely gets in Japan.

      • DanGer

        Thanks, I forgot about the new contract (quite a jump from what rest of league earns). Even so, it’s clear NY just has very little or no interest in bringing him back.

        And yes owners are definitely colluding to suppress wages. MLBPA needs to stop ignoring it.

  3. CentralScrutinizer

    The Yankees will regret not bringing Tanaka back.

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