After seven years with the New York Yankees, free agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka announced Thursday he will return to Japan to pitch for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Nippon Professional Baseball League.
“I have decided to return to Japan and play for the Rakuten Eagles for the 2021 season,” Tanaka wrote on Twitter. “I wanted to make sure and touch base with you, and thank you for all the love and support you have given me for the past 7 seasons.”
“I feel extremely fortunate for having the opportunity to take the field as a member of the New York Yankees, and play in front of all you passionate fans. it has been an honor and a privilege! Thank you so much!!”
— 東北楽天ゴールデンイーグルス (@Rakuten__Eagles) January 28, 2021
The 32-year-old, coming off a season in which he missed some time after being hit in the head by former Yankees teammate Giancarlo Stanton‘s shot during live batting practice, just completed the final year of a $155 million, seven-year deal.
A two-time All-Star selection, the Japanese right-hander spent all seven of his MLB seasons as a Yankees starter from 2014-20 and has been one of the most consistent starting pitchers in the majors over that span, going 78-46 in 173 starts.
Tanaka posted a 3-3 record with a 3.56 ERA — down from 4.45 in 2019 — in 10 starts during the pandemic-shortened season of 2020.
Tanaka was found to have a partially torn ligament in his pitching elbow during the 2014 season, and from then on the Yankees tried to give him extra rest between starts at times. He made a $22 million base salary in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons and $23 million in 2020.
Tanaka pitched well in the playoffs during his time in the Bronx, going 5-4 with a 4.18 ERA, 44 strikeouts and 15 walks in 10 starts over 54 innings. He had his best postseason run in 2017 when he went 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA, 18 strikeouts and three walks in 20 innings during the Division Series against Cleveland and League Championship Series versus Houston.
Prior to joining the Yankees, Tanaka was 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA in seven seasons with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, striking out 1,238 in 1315 innings.