Yankees Rumors: MLB Insiders Think 'Masahiro Tanaka Will Pitch in Japan' in 2021

Jenna CiccotelliCorrespondent IIJanuary 14, 2021

Alex Trautwig

As pitcher Masahiro Tanaka explores free agency, he hasn't ruled out a departure from the MLB.

Per SNY TV's Andy Martino, "there continues to be informed speculation in the industry" that Tanaka will return to his home country of Japan to continue his professional career. 

Tanaka, who has spent all seven seasons of his MLB career with the New York Yankees, appeared on a radio show in Japan last week and said there was a "not zero" chance that he would return to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, where he played before joining MLB in 2013 (h/t Mike Rosenstein of NJ.com). 

Tanaka took to Twitter to refute a report that he would only play for the Yankees next season, saying that he was considering all of the teams that were interested in services, per Rosenstein. 

NJ Advance Media's Randy Miller said last week that while Tanaka "wants to return to the Yankees," he certainly does not want to play somewhere that won't be in the running for a World Series championship. 

According to Miller, Tanaka has planned for some time to close his professional career with the Golden Eagles.

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Through seven seasons with New York, Tanaka has amassed a 3.74 ERA with a 78-46 record. In 2019, his second All-Star season after he earned the nod in his rookie year, he picked up a 4.45 ERA while going 11-9, striking out 149 and giving up 28 home runs. 

His 2020 season showed signs of a downward trend as Tanaka went 3-3 with a 3.56 ERA then struggled in the postseason. He has thrown with a partially torn UCL since 2014, but he has proved to be one of the most reliable hurlers in the league. 

Tanaka is just one of several members of the Yankees pitching staff that is on the free-agent market, and with limited depth in the rotation, the team would do well to sign himโ€”or at least anyone else.