After seven seasons with the New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka is returning home.
The Rakuten Eagles, the team Tanaka spent his first seven professional seasons with, announced on Thursday that they’ve signed the the right-handed pitcher to a contract. They announced the signing with a “Welcome Home our Hero” graphic, a call back to Tanaka’s major role in leading Rakuten to its first Japan Series title in 2013.
Tanaka came to the US before the 2014 season, signing a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees. Since he arrived, he’s been one of the most consistent pitchers in the Yankees’ rotation. He has a 3.74 ERA over 174 games, including seven complete games. He battled injuries occasionally, most notably in the his first season with the Yankees when doctors found in July that he’d partially torn a ligament in his pitching elbow. Tanaka also missed time in 2020 after being struck in the head by a Giancarlo Stanton line drive during a simulated game.
Tanaka was considered a top 10 free agent this offseason, but the market has been slow and teams have generally been reluctant to spend money. That could have contributed to Tanaka’s decision to return to Japan.
Tanaka thanks fans
After Rakuten announced the signing on Thursday, Tanaka thanked his fans with a heartfelt message on Twitter.
In an earlier tweet, Tanaka said that he plans to explain why he decided to return to Japan at a later date.
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