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Former Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka Staying In Japan

Some speculated that the Yankees could reunite with the pitcher this winter, but Tanka is returning to Japan.

Questions about payroll, free agent shortstops, Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo were all expected when Brian Cashman spoke at the MLB GM Meetings earlier this offseason. One inquiry that stood out, however, concerned Masahiro Tanaka.

Cashman was asked if the door was open for a potential reunion with the right-handed pitcher. Without getting into specifics, the Yankees general manager said, "Whatever's available in the open market is something we'll be forced to evaluate."

Fast forward to December and Tanaka is not available. Rather, he is returning to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball, according to Yahoo! Japan. Word broke Friday morning with Major League Baseball’s lockout still fresh in the news.

Tanaka spent seven seasons with the Yankees from 2014-2020. He initially left the Golden Eagles after seven seasons to sign a seven-year, $155 million contract with New York. Tanaka went back to Rakuten last offseason on a two-year deal. The contract included an opt-out, and Tanaka spoke of “unfinished business” in the majors, leaving some to wonder if the 33-year-old could rejoin the Yankees this winter after the team declined to rule the possibility out previously. Tanaka was a popular player during his time in the Bronx, and New York has stated a desire to bolster its rotation.

However, Tanaka would not have been able to negotiate with MLB teams until a new CBA was agreed to, leaving him with little choice this winter.

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Tanaka made 23 appearances in his homecoming season, totaling a 3.01 ERA over 155.2 innings for Rakuten. He also represented Japan in the Tokyo Olympics. As a Yankee, he went 78-46 with a 3.74 ERA over 1054.1 innings.

It is unclear where Tanaka would prefer to pitch, if at all, after the 2022 season.

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