Irabu was traded from San Diego to the Yankees for OF Ruben Rivera, who would later steal Derek Jeter's glove, and RHP Rafael Medina. Entering his late 20's, Irabu struggled in his season with the Yankees, going 5-4 with a 7.09 ERA in 13 games, 9 starts. He struck out 56 in 53 1/3 IP. He put it together in 1997, going 13-9, 4.06 in 29 games, 28 starts. He did not pitch in the postseason in 1998 though. In 1999, he was 11-7, 4.84 in 32 games, 27 starts but gave up 7 ER in 4 2/3 IP in his only career postseason appearance.
The Yankees, led by George Steinbrenner, were not impressed by Irabu's act, which included not covering first base during a spring training game. He was traded to the Montreal Expos prior to the 2000 season, in what was probably the second worst trade in the history of the Expos (the Bartolo Colon for Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips trade was the worst). The Yankees acquired LHP Ted Lilly and RHPs Jake Westbrook and Christian Parker for Irabu, who was a disaster in Montreal. He went 2-5, 7.24 in 11 starts for Montreal in 2000 and 0-2, 4.86 in 3 starts in 2001 before he was finally released. According to the baseball reference bullpen, the last straw in Montreal was when he missed a rehab start because he was drunk.
He signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers, making one last MLB try as a late game reliever. He was no longer the strikeout pitcher he was when he joined the Yankees. Despite his 3-8 record and 5.74 ERA, he pitched somewhat effectively, notching 16 saves. He had about 4 games where he gave up several runs which ballooned his ERA. After 2002, he returned to Japan before retiring in 2005. He made a comeback playing independent ball in 2009, before making one last trip to the Japanese League in August of that year.
It seemed like Irabu left the game disappointed. Particularly after his 1997 season, it seemed like he would be a mainstay in MLB. It didn't work out that way for him. Perhaps that disappointment led to his death on July 27, 2011 by hanging, where he was found in his California home.