Although the New York Yankees were still among the top teams in the Major Leagues in 2020, they ranked a relatively pedestrian 14th in ERA at 4.35. The trio to Gerrit Cole, JA Happ and Tanaka were excellent, but the bottom end of the rotation of Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, and James Paxton pitched to an ERA well over 5.
Now with Masahiro Tanaka still unsigned, there are indications according to NJ.com’s Randy Miller, that Tanaka could return to Japan and The Rakuten Golden Eagles, his former team. Tanaka wants to remain with the Yankees, but a deal hasn’t been reached and Tanaka has left the door open to head back home.
Masahiro Tanaka was 3-3 with a 3.56 ERA and an excellent 44-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio last season. He’s ranked among the top free agents this off season and at 32-years-old appears to have plenty left in the tank. Before joining the Yankees in 2014, Tanaka dominated in Japan, posting an ERA of 1.27 with a perfect 24-0 record.
Since the Yankees clearly need starting pitching to stay in the mix as one of the top teams in the league, it would appear they would make a push to re-sign Masahiro Tanaka. The feeling is that Tanaka doesn’t want to jump from team-to-team and if that is the only way he sticks in the Major Leagues, will return to where his professional career started.
Tanaka set a Major League career-high of 14 wins in 2016 and a career-best 194 strikeouts in 2017. He’s made two All-Star appearances with the Yankees with a career record of 78-46 with 991 strikeouts and a 3.74 ERA. Should Tanaka return to Japan, he is on the verge of a career milestone, having posted a record of 99-35 with 1238 strikeouts and a 2.30 ERA.
While a 100th win in the NPB is something to look forward to, I believe Masahiro Tanaka would prefer to get that at the end of his career after a few more seasons in MLB.