Masahiro Tanaka Plummeting with 600 Million Yen Salary Cut in Two Years | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Masahiro Tanaka Plummeting with 600 Million Yen Salary Cut in Two Years

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Tanaka, who has returned to Japanese baseball, often looks unconvinced on the bench

“Minus 100, I’m at rock bottom. I have no choice but to come up from here.”

Masahiro Tanaka (35) of the Rakuten baseball team explained his current situation at the “Ma-kun ROOM 2024” fan meeting held on January 20.

Indeed, considering his contribution to Rakuten’s first Japan championship with an impressive 24-0 record in 2013 and maintaining double-digit victories for six consecutive years from 2014 while anchoring the Yankees’ rotation, the current situation may be considered a “rock bottom” for Masahiro Tanaka. After returning to the Japanese baseball league in 2021, his performance has declined, achieving only 7 wins and 11 losses with a 4.91 ERA last season. In the contract renewal negotiations on January 21st, he agreed to a substantial reduction, with an estimated annual salary of 260 million yen (a reduction of 215 million yen) plus performance-based incentives, surpassing the baseball agreement’s salary reduction limit (40% for salaries over 100 million yen). It amounts to a significant reduction of over 600 million yen over two years.

The reason for the drop in pitching power 


“Last season, Tanaka often suffered from giving up a large number of runs in the early innings, leading to early exits from games. On the mound, he appeared to lack confidence, and the brilliance of his 24-win season from a decade ago was not evident. Tanaka himself expressed dissatisfaction, stating, ‘I haven’t been able to pitch well throughout the season, so this is the result.’

Due to not being able to fully extend his arm, there is a lack of sharpness in the fastball, which used to overpower hitters. It seems like he’s struggling to locate his pitches. Trying to rely on off-speed pitches in difficult situations, he became vulnerable to batters’ attacks, resulting in a series of disappointing performances.” (Team insider)

Why did Tanaka’s velocity drop?

“In hindsight, it might have been better for Tanaka to undergo surgery to properly address the partial tear of the right elbow ligament that was discovered in the summer of his first year in the Majors in 2014. However, Tanaka opted for platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, a conservative treatment, to continue rehabilitation and return to action quickly.

Considering that he had just signed a multi-year contract with the Yankees, the desire to avoid a long-term absence is understandable. However, that year became a turning point, and the loss of fastball velocity gradually increased, leading to more instances of giving up home runs. The significant salary reduction may be an unavoidable consequence.” (Sports journalist covering baseball)

The reason for the large pay cut is said to be other than Tanaka’s own poor performance. What does that mean?


“The team’s financial situation is tough. The parent company, Rakuten Group, has recorded a consolidated net loss for four consecutive fiscal years, totaling 3,728 billion yen in the fiscal year ending December 2022. The period from January to September of the previous year also saw a net loss of 208.4 billion yen.

In December of the same year, they announced the sale of 25.5 million shares of Rakuten Bank on the overseas market. With the team having the worst attendance among the 12 professional baseball teams and facing financial constraints, there seems to be limited capacity for the team to provide substantial financial support to players. Tanaka’s significant salary reduction may reflect the challenging financial conditions faced by the team and its parent company.” (Economic Affairs Reporter, National Newspaper)

The only way for Tanaka, who is at rock bottom to get out of the minus 100 situation is to produce an overwhelming performance that even the struggling baseball team cannot complain about.

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