Padres 'doing background work' on Yankees free agent Masahiro Tanaka: report

Garrett Stepien
·2 min read
Masahiro Tanaka Larry Rothschild
Masahiro Tanaka Larry Rothschild

Masahiro Tanaka remains a free agent, but the seven-year Yankees RHP appears to have one MLB team keeping an eye out as the one-month mark before pitchers and catchers report nears. The San Diego Padres are "doing background work on multiple free-agent starting pitchers," including Tanaka, according to a report Wednesday by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

In San Diego, Tanaka has familiarity with second-year pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who held the same position with the Yankees from 2011-19. Tanaka, of course, overlapped as a Yankee from 2014-20.

Also with the Padres, a fellow Japan native and former Nippon Professional Baseball star in Yu Darvish -- acquired Dec. 29 from the Chicago Cubs with catcher Victor Caratini in a trade for San Diego RHP Zach Davies and four prospects -- provides another connection. Darvish and Tanaka are friends, with Darvish formerly of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (2005-11) and Tanaka the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (2007-13).

After a published report Dec. 31 by NJ Advance Media's Randy Miller said that Tanaka preferred to re-sign with the Yankees or play in Japan, he spoke on his situation Jan. 1, according to Nikkan Sports, adding the chance of a return to Japan was "not zero." He took to Twitter later Jan. 1 and clarified where he stands with his ongoing free agency.

"Some media outlets have reported that they have no choice but to play for the Yankees or Japan about their future, but that's not the case," Tanaka said in a tweet. "At this stage, we are not limiting the teams we want to play next season, but we are thinking from all the teams that are interested in us."

With the Yankees from 2014-20, Tanaka totaled a 78-46 regular-season record and 3.74 ERA in 174 games (173 starts) over 1,054 1/3 innings pitched, striking out 991 while walking 208. A two-time All-Star selection, including the 2019 season, his 2020 campaign saw him go 3-3 with a 3.56 ERA in 10 starts spanning 48 innings pitched, including 44 strikeouts to eight walks and nine home runs allowed.