The New York Yankees have a lot of balls in the air right now.
They are trying to re-sign star infielder D.J. LeMahieu, who reportedly has plenty of suitors. But also in limbo is longtime starter Masahiro Tanaka, who is a free agent this offseason after spending the last seven seasons with the Yankees.
If for some reason Tanaka and the Yankees can’t reach a new deal, the 32-year-old’s plan reportedly is to return to playing in Japan as opposed to signing elsewhere in MLB.
From NJ.com’s Randy Miller:
There’s a good chance that Tanaka will either re-sign with the Yankees or play in Japan next season for his old Pacific League team, a source close to the pitcher told NJ Advance Media. The source, who didn’t want his name made public, added that Tanaka wants to return to the Yankees and isn’t interested in playing for a team that won’t contend next season, regardless of money
The aforementioned Pacific League team is the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who Tanaka reportedly plans to end his career with anyways.
Tanaka, however, responded on Twitter.
“Some media outlets have reported that they have no choice but to play for the Yankees or Japan about their future, but that’s not the case,” Tanaka wrote, via Google Translate. “At this stage, we are not limiting the teams we want to play next season, but we are thinking from all the teams that are interested in us.”
New York has pretty good starting pitching depth with Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Domingo German and Deivi Garcia, meaning LeMahieu absolutely should be the priority above Tanaka.
That said, starting pitching depth has been part of what’s sunk the Yankees in recent years, so not bringing back Tanaka — who clearly wants to stay in New York — might not be the most shrewd move.