Tanaka in talks to pitch in Japan (report)

January 26th, 2021

’s seven-year run in Yankees pinstripes appears to be complete, with the right-hander reportedly advancing negotiations to remain in Japan and return to his original team, the Rakuten Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball.

According to a report published on Monday by Sankei Sports in Tokyo, Tanaka could receive a formal offer from the Eagles as early as this week. The Yankees have added starting pitchers Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon within the last 10 days, seemingly nixing the likelihood of a Tanaka return.

Tanaka has said that he is considering all opportunities, but offers from Major League teams have proven scarce. Earlier this month, the 32-year-old disputed a published report that claimed he was entertaining only the Yankees and Japan, saying on Twitter, “We are not limiting the teams we want to play [for].”

A celebrated star during his time with Rakuten from 2007-13, Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees before the 2014 season.

Though Tanaka sustained a partially torn right ulnar collateral ligament during his debut season with New York, he avoided surgery, compiling a 78-46 record with a 3.74 ERA in 174 regular-season games (173 starts). Tanaka was 5-4 with a 3.33 ERA in 10 postseason starts.

In 2020, Tanaka was 3-3 with a 3.56 ERA in 10 starts, a season that saw his debut delayed after sustaining a concussion on July 4 at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka recovered remarkably quickly from the injury, inflicted by a 108 mph Giancarlo Stanton line drive off the side of the hurler’s skull. Eventually, Tanaka even found himself laughing at repeated replays of the frightening scene.

Late in the regular season, the normally placid Tanaka struck a maudlin note following a Sept. 23 loss to the Blue Jays in Buffalo, N.Y., wondering if it would prove to be his final regular-season outing for the club. Tanaka pitched twice in the playoffs, accepting the loss in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Rays at San Diego’s Petco Park.

“It was a tough season, to say the least,” Tanaka said through a translator on Sept. 23. “It was a short season with the pandemic, and for me, this was the last season of my contract -- a seven-year contract with the Yankees. So that was kind of frustrating, to have my last regular season end this way.”