As much as the Yankees would’ve loved to run it back with Tanaka for another season, paying him $15 million annually, which he was demanding, simply wasn’t in their spending budget.
At the time of Tanaka’s departure — he eventually signed a one-year, $7.7 million deal to return to the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan — the club was so financially constrained that it had no other choice but to prioritize other areas of the roster, including adding a lefty bat and a bullpen arm.
That lefty bat was…Brett Gardner again, but still.
Yankees fans have spent the last few months waiting with great anticipation for Tanaka’s return to Nippon Professional Baseball.
Unfortunately for them and the 32-year-old righty, however, his debut was pushed back due to a calf injury, which will sideline him for approximately three weeks.
Yankees fans will hate hearing that Masahiro Tanaka got injured overseas.
What makes this injury all the more heartbreaking for Yankees fans is the timing of it, as Tanaka was scheduled to start this Saturday against the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. That’s right, folks, the injury transpired roughly 24 hours before the former fan favorite was supposed to toe the rubber for the Golden Eagles.
Clearly disappointed that his debut is being put on hold, Tanaka issued a statement through the team addressing the injury, saying: “I’m sorry to all the fans who were looking forward to my start. I was also looking forward to my first start and am very disappointed. Fortunately, it is not a serious injury and I will do everything possible to get well soon in order to be able to pitch.”
In case this news wasn’t already depressing for Yankees fans, it also brought us an adorable interaction between the righty and Aaron Hicks, who just had to check in on his friend.
As for the Golden Eagles, they better hope this injury doesn’t linger, as they’ve struggled mightily to replicate the success they enjoyed during Tanaka’s initial tenure with the club.
For context, he helped lead them to their first (and only) championship back in 2013. That year, the former two-time All-Star finished 24-0 (!) with a 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeouts in over 200 innings.
The Yankees have dealt with their fair share of injuries thus far in Spring Training, and it would appear that their continued run of bad luck in that department traveled with Tanaka to Japan. For his sake, let’s hope he kills it in rehab and is back to dominating the NPB in a few weeks’ time.