Yankees: When Will They Hop A Flight To Visit An Old Friend In Japan?

Masahiro Tanaka, Former Yankees Starter (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)

The Yankees still owe themselves a good kick in the butt for not pursuing Masahiro Tanaka during the offseason. They can make up for it now.

The Yankees, due mainly to the loss of Corey Kluber, desperately need a proven major league starter to back up Gerrit Cole if they still have dreams of making the playoffs.

Has it dawned on the Yankees there’s a wayward son still pitching in Japan?

Masahiro Tanaka's new look uniform (cbssports.com)
Masahiro Tanaka’s new look uniform (cbssports.com)

Masahiro Tanaka was not vigorously pursued by the Yankees during the offseason – and the why question was never answered by the Yankees.

We did hear from Brian Cashman that Tanaka had reservations about the COVID virus, and staying in the United States when there were some brutal assaults taking place towards Asians living here, that Tanaka decided it best for his family if he returned to his homeland.

Accepting that to be true, all things have passed since then.

Yankees: Their Move Comes First

Tanaka comes from a culture that stresses loyalty and personal pride, meaning that if the Yankees want him back, it’s on them to make the overture – in person.

This means that both Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman must be key members of those on the plane to meet in Japan with Tanaka.

And for Steinbrenner, it also means loosening the purse strings by reluctantly agreeing to exceed the luxury tax limit this year because Tanka will not come on the cheap.

From the Yankees’ standpoint, this should be a no-brainer at this point in their season, especially after last night’s ugly defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Royals.

Yankees: Tanaka Needs No Introduction

From 2014-2020, Masahiro Tanaka was the Yankees’ best and most consistent pitcher – hands down. His 98-46, 3.74 ERA record with the team is unmatched, and that doesn’t include what he did for the Yankees during the postseason.

Tanaka has unfinished business in the United States, having returned home without a World Championship ring, and the Yankees can gently use that to encourage him to come back to his second home at Yankee Stadium.

A Yankees Reunion With Masahiro Tanaka - Why Not?
A Yankees Reunion With Masahiro Tanaka – Why Not?

The Yankees can offer Tanaka a three-year deal (he’s only 32) with player options to opt-out after each year, including this campaign in 2021.

Testing the waters, the Yankees can have Shingo Horie, the Yankees’ Japanese interpreter and personal friend of Tanaka, establish contact with Tanaka, so there are assurances a visit is welcome.

During the conversation, Horie becomes a significant ally of the contingent as he can attest to the positive changes here since Tanaka left the United States.

Tanaka: A Ready-Made And Fresh Starter

I always say it never hurts to ask.

While there’s some pride to be swallowed on both sides, it’s on the Yankees to make the first move.

So far this year, Tanaka has made only nine starts for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Over 59 innings, he’s carrying a 2-4 record with a 2.90 ERA. So, he’s fresh, healthy, and ready to pick up where he left off last year.

From my perspective as a fan and armchair GM, it behooves the team to make the effort that brings Masahiro Tanaka back to Yankee Stadium, pitching every fifth day behind Gerrit Cole.

While Brian Cashman has other needs on his plate as well as this one, it’ll be disappointing if he doesn’t clear the deck to make this his top priority now, leaving time to act here as the trade deadline gets closer.

Here’s What Readers Are Saying…

Timothy Delmont He’s under contract so how would that work….pay another posting fee plus Tanakas salary? yeah that’s not happening…..they have kids that are ready Author’s Reply: Tanaka has such stature in Japan he can write his own ticket. That said, it’s a good question.

Andrew Pal He’s actually 32 years old and will turn 33 later this year. His last four seasons were considerably less impressive than his first three and I’m just not sure he’s a top of the rotation type starter anymore. This team needs to move forward, not backward.

Daniel J Trinh Nope, not for 20 m/yr and a wonky elbow. Author’s Reply: He pitched with that elbow, declining surgery, for four years. Here’s Daniel’s reply:

Daniel J Trinh Steve Contursi thank you. Kills me to make the last statement as I have his jersey. My point about most Japanese players are not durable, they peak around 5-6 years of service and then loss of velocity and then retirement after maybe 10 years of MLB service. I am hoping to get Ohtani in 2022 and realistically give him 35 million a year for 5-6. Not spending another 20 plus for Tanaka sorry but sorry.

Paul Dumas It was Tanaka’s choice to go…he had cited his child being discriminated against due to his background during the US’s “Asian Hate” movement, which is disgusting. It wasn’t solely a baseball decision. I doubt he comes back even if he’s asked.

Paul Farese I think he’d actually be way more effective since the ball has been de-juiced

Mike Harrington I don’t see them making that move. His ERA in Japan is nice, but it’s not what it was his first time there. He’s got a losing record. I don’t think our move is bringing back Tanaka, if they even could. I’m not sure Tanaka would walk away from his Japanese team mid-season, especially when they’re only 2 GB of 1st place in their division race, and currently in 2nd place. I believe that a 2nd place team makes the playoffs if i’m reading the playoff format information out there right. Author’s Reply: Mike is always on point but in this case I disagree. Tanaka’s been there done that in Japan – his challenge remains here.

Greg Rowdy Frey Grasping at straws if there are legitimate conversations going on about bringing back Tanaka. Author’s Reply: What, you don’t consider my article a “legitimate conversation”? Just kidding.

John Casale Why? He had struggled last year and he will still probably ask for too much $$$

Joan Wulterin That ship has sailed

Matthew Makin I’d rather they go after Sugano. He’s a Japanese ace and he’s gonna be posted for the MLB next season. Basically, he’s a better (albeit at this point more expensive and healthier) version of Tanaka in the prime of his career.

Hubie Mercado Yankees need to make a trade for a solid pitcher or look into the farm system. Mussina, Pettite, nor CC will be walking to the mound. Time to realize this season is a wash or make a move for a pitcher.

Final Thoughts And Closing Of Published Comments

I acquiesce to readers on this one. I thought it was a good idea, but readers are overwhelmingly opposed to bringing Tanaka back, and they have good reasons as well. (Steve Contursi, Reflections On Baseball)

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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.