The Rakuten Eagles will make a concrete offer this week to their former ace, Masahiro Tanaka, Sankei Sports reported Tuesday, citing a source.
According to Sanspo, the sides have spoken repeatedly and while major league teams have expressed interest in the former Yankee, the Eagles appear to be the leading contender to land the 32-year-old free agent, who last pitched for them in 2013.
The news comes just six days before the Eagles begin spring training in Okinawa.
Tanaka, who won 28 consecutive regular-season decisions from 2012 to the end of the 2013 season, often trains at the Sendai-based Pacific League club’s facilities.
The 2021 season will be an emotional one for the Eagles, coming 10 years after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan and killed nearly 15,899 with over 2,500 still listed as missing. The Eagles’ home park was seriously damaged in the earthquake, while the following tsunami triggered a nuclear disaster.
Although Japan’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been better than that in the U.S., Japan has yet to even approve any vaccines, and much of the country is once more in a state of emergency. Imported players who do not currently possess Japanese residence permits are currently unable to enter the country.