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Will Masahiro Tanaka return to the Yankees?

As we progress through the month of January, the free agent pool is still filled with some of baseball’s finest players. Teams continue the negotiation process, hoping to be contenders in the upcoming season. Players wait anxiously to be signed, and some are willing to play outside of Major League Baseball. Current free agent Masahiro Tanaka is one of these players, and may be considering leaving the MLB.

Tanaka may consider returning to Japan to continue his professional baseball career. Recently, he made an appearance on a Japanese talk show called “All Night Nippon.” There he acknowledged the possibility of returning to play ball in Japan. Tank could pitch for two teams. His former team the Rakuten Golden Eagles, or the Yomiuri Giants. Though this is an option he is considering, it is not his primary wish. Tanaka has made it very clear that he wishes to re-up with the New York Yankees.

Throughout his career with the Yankees, Tank has an ERA of 3.74. He is 78-46, with 991 total strikeouts. With his workhorse mentality and impressive stats, The Bronx Bombers would benefit greatly from resigning him. Masahiro has proven himself to be consistent, and could be a good three spot in the rotation. With Luis Severino recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Yankees desperately need solid pitching. Resigning Tanaka would fulfill these needs. They already have Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, and a few other talented arms on their pitching staff. Throwing another solid pitcher in the mix gives the Yankees the rotation they need to contend.

The Yankees still have not attempted to sign Tanaka. They may be hesitant due to his injury history. Since coming to the MLB, Masahiro has been plagued with elbow injuries. In July of 2014, he was diagnosed with a partially torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament. Tanaka decided to rehab naturally, not wanting to deal with Tommy John. He then missed almost three months of the season. This injury continued to bother him in the future and he could not manage to stay healthy. Tank missed another five weeks, due to tendinitis and tightness in his right forearm. He also ended up getting surgery on his right elbow to remove a bone spur.

Elbow injuries are very common for Japanese pitchers when they first enter the MLB. In Japan they do a six man pitching rotation, compared to the five man rotation that you would normally see. Having a six man rotation allows each pitcher a week recovery time in between starts. Coming into the MLB from Japan is a big adjustment for these pitchers. Many find themselves injured. This is due to the lack of rest and increased work load. That lost recovery day negatively impacts their health. Unfortunately for Tanaka, he followed that trend.

Despite the fact Masahiro has a history of elbow injuries, he has had no issues recently. Looking healthy and strong, Tank has had 119 starts in the last four seasons. His injuries seem to be a concern of the past, and it would be foolish of the Yanks not to sign him. Only time will tell, but many Yankee fans hope to see Tanaka in pinstripes this upcoming season.

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