This offseason, most of the free-agent pitcher interest will center around 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer. However, there are other capable and talented pitchers up for grabs. Among them is veteran right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka is a two-time All-Star and owns an overall record of 78-46 in seven seasons for the New York Yankees. He is a steady regular-season pitcher, but it is in the postseason where he really shines. Prior to this past postseason, Tanaka owned a 1.32 ERA in 41 innings pitched and had never allowed more than two earned runs in any of his seven starts. Unfortunately, the 2020 playoffs were not as kind. In two starts, Tanaka managed to pitch only eight innings allowing 11 earned runs and 13 hits.
This performance has possibly lowered Tanaka’s value in some GM’s eyes. Not only that, there is his lingering partial UCL tear in his right elbow that cost him six weeks in 2014. An injury that Tanaka, as of right now at least, has been able to avoid having surgery on. However, despite these concerns, Tanaka is still at least a number two or three starter in most rotations. As with every offseason, there are a number of teams in need of quality arms. Here is a look at several potential landing spots for Masahiro Tanaka.
New York Yankees
The 32-year-old Masahiro Tanaka has spent the entirety of his seven-year MLB career in Yankees pinstripes. However, the Yankees did not come to an agreement on an extension with their veteran hurler before he became a free agent. It’s not as if the Yankees don’t need pitching either. They declined a team option on left-hander J.A. Happ and are not expected to re-sign James Paxton. In fact, as of right now, Gerrit Cole is the only guaranteed starter going into next season for the Bronx Bombers. Luis Severino missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery, and Domingo German was suspended all of last year as well due to a domestic violence incident.
With all of the rotation uncertainty, re-signing Tanaka should be a priority for the Yankees. He will take his usual spot as the number two starter behind Cole and is a known variable on the staff. Tanaka signed with the Yankees after spending 2007-2013 as a member of. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Nippon Professional Baseball’s Pacific League.
Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels whiffed on signing Gerrit Cole last offseason. Even though Dylan Bundy, Griffin Canning, and Andrew Heaney are set to return, there are still questions surrounding the Angels pitching staff. With Shohei Ohtani’s two-way status up in the air, the Angels could decide to take a run at Tanaka.
With Tanaka, the Angels rotation is much more stable. While Tanaka isn’t Cole, he is still a reliable and steady starter that will bolster the Angels staff and give them the starting pitcher they’ve been chasing for the last few seasons.
Boston Red Sox
For the Boston Red Sox, the immediate success of their rotation rests on how quickly ace Chris Sale returns from Tommy John surgery. Sale isn’t the only question, however. How Eduardo Rodriguez responds from his post-COVID recovery also hangs in the air. After declining the option on Martin Perez, the only returning starter is Nathan Eovaldi. With so much doubt about the rotation, the Red Sox could look to bring in Tanaka.
With Tanaka averaging 25 starts and 151 innings per year, he would be a welcome addition to a Sox team with many pitching questions. Both of those numbers include the shortened 2020 season. So, Tanaka’s steady presence could be just what the Red Sox are looking for.
San Francisco Giants
Hurler Kevin Gausman accepted the $18.9 million qualifying offer from the San Francisco Giants. Along with Johnny Cueto, the Giants have a formidable top two in their rotation. However, Drew Smyly, Jeff Samardzija, and Trevor Cahill are all free agents. The Giants could look to add a veteran arm such as Tanaka into their stable.
He would easily slide into the number three spot behind Gausman and Cueto. This move would give the Giants three steady arms. Adding Tanaka would also keep the Giants competitive in a very strong NL West that features the reigning World Series champs. He could very well help them get over the hump and back into the playoff picture.
While Tanaka is not an ace, he is still a very good pitcher. He has proven in his career to be reliable and steady. His postseason numbers speak for themselves and show that he performs well in pressure situations.
With Marcus Stroman off the board, Tanaka is arguably the second-best starting pitcher available behind Bauer. Any team with starting pitching needs would be wise to at least kick the tires on Tanaka. His splitter plays well in any ballpark and his veteran presence is welcome on any staff.
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