Despite the need for some starting rotation depth, it appears the Yankees didn’t express enough interest (or any interest at all) … or Tanaka really enjoyed his return to his home country. According to reports, he opted into the second year of his two-year contract with the Rakuten Golden Eagles this week.
The pessimist in us believes that this is probably the official end of the road for the right-hander and the Bombers. If there was no traction on Tanaka returning to the states in an offseason where the Yankees badly need to revamp their roster and ensure they possess above average depth (after they reset the luxury tax!) then we just don’t see this being a part of their plan in 2023.
At that point, they really better have things figured out or else all hell will break loose in Bronx. In short, we’re saying it’d be prudent to have some names lined up that could match Tanaka’s potential production or exceed it when the lockout ends.
It’s still unclear why Tanaka’s tenure in pinstripes came to an abrupt end. Conflicting reports suggested a number of different reasons, but one aspect of the process that remained constant was the Yankees’ lack of interest.
Yet, they continue to go to great lengths to keep Brett Gardner employed? And had him take playing time away from up-and-coming outfield options? Really confusing stuff.
The Yankees and Masahiro Tanaka will not be reuniting this offseason.
Nonetheless, Tanaka seems to be happy with his situation after rejoining the team that made him a professional back in 2007. This past season, the right-hander finished with a 3.01 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 23 games (155.2 innings). The Golden Eagles were bounced early from the postseason, but Tanaka enjoyed his time on the big stage during the Olympics as Japan secured the gold medal.
Many assumed the 33-year-old’s friendship with Gerrit Cole might help sway things in the Yankees’ direction, but they clearly had no pre-lockout plan and there was no way Tanaka was going to wait until the incompetent MLB figured out the next CBA to sign a contract.
In 2021 it was clear the Yankees needed more innings from their starters. Corey Kluber’s injury paved the way for Andrew Heaney’s addition. Domingo Germán received far too many starts for a supposed World Series contender. As did Michael King (who’s better suited for a relief role). Their ace only logged 181.1 innings, and the next closest was Jordan Montgomery with 157.1. Not enough.
Re-signing Tanaka to go with a six-man rotation of sorts with Cole pitching every fifth day sounded like an attractive plan. But it’s not happening. Not now, and probably not in 2023.