Yankees free agent Masahiro Tanaka: Possibility of MLB departure, return to Japan 'not zero'

Garrett Stepien
·2 min read
Masahiro Tanaka looks left, claps glove
Masahiro Tanaka looks left, claps glove

After a published report Thursday by NJ Advance Media's Randy Miller said that seven-year Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka preferred to re-sign with New York or play in Japan, he reportedly spoke on his situation.

Nikkan Sports, a Japanese daily sports newspaper via Tokyo founded in 1946, reported Friday that Tanaka said on the late-night Japanese radio program "All Night Nippon" that he was unsure of his MLB future entering 2021.

"I don't know what the number of games will be, and everything is still unclear," said Tanaka, who is a contributor for the Nippon Broadcasting System, talking to Japanese radio personality Masahiro Nakai about MLB's upcoming season amid coronavirus protocols.


"If you play all 162 games, what are your numerical goals?" Nakai asked Tanaka.

"No, I don't know if I'm playing baseball in major leagues," said Tanaka, who included that the chance of a return to Japan is "not zero."

"I can't do it without an offer," Tanaka added.

Tanaka rose to stardom in the Nippon Professional League from 2007-13. As a member of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Tanaka went 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA in 175 games (172 starts) over 1,315 innings pitched, striking out 1,238 and walking 275.

The Yankees signed Tanaka Jan. 22, 2014, for seven years and $155 million. He lived up to his hype as an MLB rookie during the 2014 season, voted to the All-Star Game while going 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 136 1/3 innings pitched over 20 starts.

With the Yankees from 2014-20, he 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.