Masahiro Tanaka and the Rakuten Eagles are in the “late stages of negotiations,” writes Pete Caldera of NorthJersey.com. An offer does not appear to be made yet, but a report from Sankei Sports suggests Tanaka is close to returning to the Nippon Professional League. Tanaka does not appear to have closed off the possibility of returning to MLB entirely, but opportunities to woo the right-hander may be dwindling. Tanaka played for the Eagles from 2007 to 2013. Caldera notes that Tanaka’s camp could receive the official offer from the Eagles sometime this week.
Tanaka’s stay in New York was an unmitigated success. Over seven years, he posted a 3.74 ERA/3.91 ERA with a 47.5% ground-ball rate, 23.1% strikeout rate, and 4.8% walk rate over 1,054 1/3 innings. He made two All-Star teams and had been nails in the postseason before two rough playoff starts in 2020. Many assumed that he would just return to the Yankees this winter, but New York has thus far moved in a different direction with the additions of Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. There has been very little buzz regarding a return to pinstripes for Tanaka.
That said, if Tanaka desires to stay in the States, he should have no trouble finding a home. The 32-year-old’s track record makes him one of the top starters left on the market. Our free-agent predictions had Tanaka pegged as the No. 10 free agent on the market, the top starting option remaining after NL Cy Young Trevor Bauer. Teams have been slow to dole out money this winter, however, which could certainly play a role in Tanaka looking elsewhere for a place to pitch in 2021.