Tag: Masahiro Tanaka Page 1 of 12

A fond farewell to Masahiro Tanaka

It should go without saying, but saying goodbye to Masahiro Tanaka really stinks. I don’t know about you, but his seven years pitching for the Yankees really flew by. There were some ups and downs along the way, but one thing’s for sure: the guy was a fierce competitor on the mound and delivered a number of memorable performances during his tenure. Amazingly, he’s still just 32 years-old and has plenty of good years ahead of him. We certainly wish him the best of luck.

Now that his departure is official, it’s a good time to reflect upon Tanaka’s career with the Yankees. From the initial acquisition to the UCL scare to a handful of postseason highlights, Tanaka was an incredibly fun player to follow over the past seven seasons.

The pursuit

The entire baseball world eagerly awaited Tanaka’s move from NPB to MLB following the 2013 season. He had just capped off a tremendous year for the Rakuten Eagles and ended it with an exclamation point. As if going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA during the regular season wasn’t sufficient, Tanaka closed out Game 7 of the Japan Series on zero days rest to seal the title. Oddly enough, Tanaka actually took the loss in Game 6, but that memory was immediately erased after celebrated on the mound following the last out the next day. It was the perfect leadup to his move to the MLB.

Unsurprisingly, It didn’t take long for reports to surface that the Yankees would be heavily involved in attempting to sign Tanaka. By October 10th, George King reported that the team would be serious players for the right hander’s services. But as the next couple of months moved along, there was quite a bit of uncertainty regarding Tanaka’s availability.

Masahiro Tanaka signs with the Rakuten Eagles

The writing has been on the wall, but it still stinks to see Masahiro Tanaka’s career with the Yankees end like this. No opportunity for a standing ovation from the fans, nor no last chance at a World Series ring. Alas, he’s heading back to his original club, the Rakuten Eagles of NPB.

Reports of serious discussions to return to Japan came earlier this week, though rumors about Tanaka going back to NPB were floated early in the offseason as well. Now, it’s official. Per Jim Allen, it’s a two-year deal worth $17 million.

I’m putting the final touches on a longer piece about Tanaka’s career in New York. Look out for that either later today or tomorrow morning. For now, I’ll just say that it was a pleasure to watch him pitch for the Yankees over the last seven years. The feeling was mutual, clearly:

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.)

Post-DJ Part Two: Spending the Money

A little less than a month ago, I wrote about the possibility of a post-DJ LeMahieu life for the Yankees and included a bunch of options to replace him. If you’d asked me then if I thought that I’d write a follow up just a few days before Christmas, I’d’ve said no. Yankees or not, I figured DJLM would’ve signed with a team by now. Well, he hasn’t and the Yankees haven’t done anything in Major League free agency, so it’s given my mind time to wander. How could the Yankees spend if they don’t sign LeMahieu?

Without signing him, the Yankees would have about $35 million to play with before the first luxury tax barrier. In reality, it’s a little over that, but for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll say it’s $35M. For simplicity’s sake, too, I’m going to ignore the roster crunch that would happen in either of the scenarios I’m about to present. There’d be ways to work this out and this is a lot of wish casting anyway, so let’s roll with it. All salary assumptions are from MLBTR and reflect the contract’s average annual value for tax purposes.

My first plan is the ‘stick to the plan’ plan in which ‘stick with the plan’ means keeping Gleyber Torres at shortstop, even if LeMahieu signs elsewhere. Here goes, with $35M to spend:

–Sign Kolten Wong for $8M ($27M remaining)

–Sign Jose Quintana for $9M ($18M remaining)

–Sign Liam Hendriks for $10M ($8M remaining)

–Sign Brad Hand for $M ($1M remaining)

This gives the Yankees a viable replacement for LeMahieu, some starting depth, and good bullpen depth, too.

My second plan is a bit of a more nostalgic, get-the-band-back-together type plan.

–Sign Didi Gregorius for $13M ($22M remaining)

–Sign Masahiro Tanaka for $13M ($9M remaining)

–Sign Marc Melancon for $4M ($5M remaining)

–Sign Cole Hamels for $4M ($1M remaining)

All of them–except Hamels–have been Yankees at one point and are good enough to bring back. Hamels is a personal favorite and would be decent rotation depth with Tanaka back, too.

One thing we should not–aside from the aforementioned roster concerns–is that MLBTR’s salaries have shot pretty low. Hell, they project LeMahieu himself to get only $17M AAV. Additionally, I put the Yankees right up against the edge of the tax, which they may not want to do, in case they actually want to shop around at the trade deadline.

Even if they are a little more convoluted, there are paths to follow without LeMahieu; they could even be pretty successful! The simplest route–and the one fans likely want most–is to re-sign LeMahieu and go from there. There’s obviously still time to make that happen and build around that move. If they don’t though, the Yankees have options for that money.

News & Notes: Cashman on YES, Hicks, Cortes returns

The Winter Meetings have come and gone with a thud. Sure, a few deals went down, but nothing earth-shattering. I suppose this was to be expected. Rather than a steady flow of rumors and moves, it was just like every other week this offseason.

Brian Cashman sheds some light on the Yankees’ offseason

The Yankees stood pat this week, but we do have some team-related news to relay, mostly thanks to Brian Cashman’s interview on YES yesterday. NJ.com’s Randy Miller transcribed a number of relevant quotes which I’ll break down here as well.

  • Cashman expressed the team’s intent to bring back free agent DJ LeMahieu. No shocker here.
  • After discussing LeMahieu, Meredith Marakovits asked if Masahiro Tanaka fits into the picture if the team re-signs LeMahieu. Cashman was very coy here, basically saying he couldn’t answer the question about what fits into the team’s budget. I’ve seen folks read that response as if Tanaka is a goner. I understand that sentiment, especially given his openness about wanting to bring back DJLM. However, it’s not like he was directly asked about wanting to bring back Tanaka. I wonder if he used the question being targeted toward the financial aspect to avoid talking about Tanaka at all. Perhaps that means a reunion with Tanaka isn’t out of the cards, though maybe I’m just overthinking it.
  • The GM had plenty of good things to say about Gary Sánchez, though he couched his statement by saying that they’re not giving him a pass. Cashman cited how hard he hit the ball this season when he made contact, which was obviously an issue for him (36 percent strikeout rate). It should come as no surprise that the team tendered him a contract last week based on Cashman’s steadfast belief in the backstop.
  • It sure sounds like Domingo Germán has been welcomed back based on the way Cashman spoke about the rotation. Hal Steinbrenner had previously said the team would need “proof that he [Germán] turned his life around”.
  • Cashman would like to add to the rotation this offseason, but he also stated that “you could certainly daydream” that the pitching staff might actually have everything that it already needs. Look, I love some of the young arms that this team has, but let’s add some depth please.

Aaron Hicks says his elbow still isn’t 100 percent

In addition to Cashman, the Yankees’ center fielder was also on YES last night. I believe Hicks mentioned this during the regular season, but I found it notable that he said yesterday that his elbow still doesn’t feel 100 percent after Tommy John surgery. Perhaps it won’t be, which stinks.

As Hicks noted in the interview, he felt like it took him until the end of the year to really feel more like himself. His numbers bore this out too. Offensively, that may be as a result of changing his swing so he doesn’t hyperextend his elbow. I’m pretty sure this is the first we’ve heard of Hicks having to adjust his swing mechanics since the surgery.

Nestor Cortes is back in the organization

Per his own Instagram account, Nestor Cortes has re-signed with the Yankees after spending 2020 with the Mariners. The Yanks dealt him to Seattle last offseason, and sheesh, did Cortes struggle. He had a 15.26 ERA in 7 2/3 innings with the Mariners. Elbow issues appear to be the blame here as an elbow impingement shut his season down mid-August. The lefty is now pitching in the Dominican Republic, so he’s presumably healthy.

The Yankees haven’t announced the move yet, but it’s safe to assume that this is a minor league deal. I’m sure we’ll see Cortes receive an invite to spring training, too. Odds are he’s just minor league depth during 2021, though he could serve as a mop-up man if absolutely needed in the big leagues.

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