Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka’s two-year contract with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles contained an opt-out clause this winter, but the team announced that Tanaka will return to the club in 2022 (hat tip to Yahoo Japan). Tanaka’s comeback season in NPB went well, as he posted a 3.01 ERA with a 20.19% strikeout rate and a 4.65% walk rate over 155 2/3 innings with the Eagles.
After his seven-year, $155MM contract with the Yankees expired last winter, Tanaka drew interest in the free agent market but it appeared as though his chief preferences were either to return to New York, or to head back to Japan. A reunion with the Yankees didn’t materialize, in part because the team was aiming to stay under the luxury tax threshold in 2021 and didn’t have the payroll space to fit a new Tanaka deal.
Even in his own personal announcement of his contract with the Eagles, Tanaka stated that he would be playing for the Eagles “for the 2021 season,” despite the two-year nature of his deal. With the opt-out clause in mind, there was quite a bit of speculation that Tanaka could explore a return to the majors in 2022 — with the Yankees now free of a repeated luxury tax penalty and theoretically more open to spending this winter, it again seemed plausible that Tanaka would be back pitching in the Bronx.
Then again, it has been a pretty quiet offseason for the Yankees thus far. While the Bronx Bombers have been linked to several notable free agents and trade candidates, the Yankees have yet to swing any major acquisitions. An argument could also be made that New York has plenty of rotation candidates already lined up (Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Nestor Cortes Jr., Luis Severino, Domingo German, Luis Gil, Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia, and when healthy, Jameson Taillon), though even aside from the “you can never have too much pitching” mantra, there are enough question marks within that group that bringing in Tanaka or another established veteran makes sense.
Beyond the Yankees’ plans, however, maybe the simplest reason behind Tanaka’s decision is that he didn’t want to opt out just to enter a Major League free agent market that is currently in shutdown mode. Rather than face weeks or months of uncertainty, Tanaka will instead avoid the lockout entirely and remain a comfortable situation with the Eagles for at least one more year. 2023 will be Tanaka’s age-34 season, and if he continues to pitch like he did this past year, he should have plenty of opportunities available to him next winter in both Japan and North America.
I imagine the lockout played a big part in it. Especially announcing it now and not prior to the lockout.
Quite possible. Another factor is the Japan Series just ended a few days ago. He wouldn’t and couldn’t make an announcement until the official end of the Japanese baseball season. Last, maybe his agent had a conversation with the Yankees who were unable to make a commitment at this point. They were strangely quiet while most other teams were cutting deals.
The new COVID strain and the uncertainty that goes with it (even though the world will further change in three months) likely also contributed.
That’s a good point Dewey. It would be tough for someone in a foreign country to commit to playing in North America next year not knowing how often he’d be permitted to have his family visit here or travel over there himself.
I believe Japan already closed it borders almost entirely – this most recent episode being due to the omicron version. So there is that large deterrent for someone who wants to be with relatives back home, plus the uncertainty of not just the lockout but if there will even be a full 2022 or 2022 at all… yup.
Tanaka seems to be loyal to his employers. The Eagles and Yankees. When he signed a two year contract, he wasn’t returning before 2023. Financially he could make more playing baseball in the U.S., but he’s a rock star in Japan. His endorsement deals there are huge. A decent chance he may opt never to return to MLB, but if he does, 2022 is not the year. Not with an unsettled labor dispute.
Japanese are a loyal bunch
I think he would’ve came back:
1- No labor issues
2- Yankees only.
I would like Tanaka on the Mets. Great dude and its ashame what happened to his arm. He was lights out before that injury
Dudes a Yankee.
Damn it. Hopefully 2023, my favorite starter of all time
He’s going to play where he knows there will be a season.
Tanaka was a different pitcher with Brian McCann than he was with Gary Sanchez. Not saying that’s why Tanaka scuffled later on for the yanks but it’s not hard to see how awful of an impact Sanchez has on the pitching staff.
Yankees should have moved on from Sanchez 2 years ago. Instead, we get another season filled with passed balls, brainfarts and strikeouts with RISP. Girardi was able to keep him in line and as soon as Boone came around Gary got lazy.
Agree with all of that 100%. I can’t help but look at the dude as Jesus Montero 2.0 and see the Yankees continuously making the same mistakes year after year. It’s sad really.
Let’s just be honest here. Sanchez is lazy and lacks discipline. I’ll never forget him jogging to 1st and getting doubled up after having 1 out with the bases loaded against the Rays a few years ago. If Sanchez at least beat out the throw (which he should have if he hustled) the game is tied. He’s basically kept around for his bat and he’s been awful. We’ll be lucky if he bats over the mendoza line this year.
Lee Mazzilli for HOF
Anyone who knows about the catching position are that the issues he has are fixable. Blocking and framing.
My fantasy team took a big hit when he bolted, so he can just stay there.
I drafted him the year he signed with MLB and he carried me to a Fantasy championship. He was awesome
Forgot about this guy how’s he doing in the NPB?
Look him up on BR or read the article padresfan111323.
Tanaka wants to play for a winner next season, so why would he sign with a train wreck of a team in NYC? (Insert either NY MLB team here). Stay in Japan and compete for a championship.
Shot fired….(I’m already bored due to the lockout so time to stir the pot a little).
Problem is Dorothy, the Yankees fans are saying much worse about the team. You’ll need a bigger spoon for any real stirring.
Most fans wish their team was as good as the Yankees lol.
personal fave. still a chance to bring didi back
also: why do i keep checking this site 5 times a day when there is literally zero chance of any news?
I didn’t realize Tanaka was only 33. Seems like he’s been around forever.
Good let him stay there. He never lived up to the contract he was given anyway and after he walked out on us last year there is no way I would accept him back onto the team. There are plenty of other options out there for the yankees I wish they would start by replacing Cashman and go from there.
You can’t go full troll like that. You have to pick one ridiculous statement/opinion at a time and work your way from there. Tough to bait when you go all gas no brakes from the start. Can’t live your troll life a quarter of a mile at a time Vin Diesel.
I was really hoping for Yankees Reunion.
truly believe he wanted to be back with the yankees but omicron + lockout made it too much of a gamble
Can’t blame him. Major League Baseball and Covid a train wreck right now. I’d stay home too