Masahiro Tanaka may not return to the Yankees in 2021, but it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be pitching against his only MLB club next season.
Retaining D.J. LeMahieu is the Yankees’ top priority in free agency, but he’s not the only player New York is interested in bringing back for another season in pinstripes. Masahiro Tanaka is another player Brian Cashman would like to return to the Bronx if the price is right.
The good news for Yankees fans is that Tanaka doesn’t appear to have any interest in pitching for another MLB team. According to NJ.Com, the Japanese right-hander is determined to either re-sign for the Yankees or return to Japan to pitch for the Rakuten Golden Eagles next season. Tanaka played for the Golden Eagles from 2007-2013 before signing with the Yankees.
The real question is just how much the Yankees are willing to pay to secure a reunion with Tanaka.
What would bringing back Masahiro Tanaka truly cost the Yankees?
Any decision about the starting pitcher will almost certainly wait until LeMahieu’s future is resolved. New York won’t hand out another significant contract before they know what it might cost to re-sign their second baseman. If LeMahieu signs elsewhere, the Yankees will need to quickly pivot to acquire another infielder to take his place.
Tanaka appears to be a player that’s willing to wait for the Yankees to handle their other business. Don’t look for Cashman to break the bank to bring him back. Tanaka made over $20 million last season but will have to settle for a significant pay cut if he wants to don pinstripes in 2021. It’s hard to envision a scenario where the Yankees offer him anything more than a one-year deal in the $10-12 million dollar range.
That’s still significantly more than Tanaka can make if he decides to return to his homeland. Add it all up and the Yankees hold all the cards in these negotiations. If they want to bring Tanaka back then they’ll be able to make it happen. Otherwise, he’ll return to Japan to finish off his distinguished career.