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.)