Rakuten Golden Eagles appear likely to allow Masahiro Tanaka’s departure to MLB

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Rakuten Golden Eagles president Yozo Tachibana spoke to the Japanese media this weekend about MLB and NPB’s new posting system, which puts a $20 million cap on posting fees. The Golden Eagles own the rights to the hottest international free agent on the market this winter, Masahiro Tanaka, and were hoping to cash in like the Nippon Ham Fighters did in 2012 when they got a franchise-changing $51.7 million posting fee from the Rangers for Yu Darvish.

Put simply — and for obvious reasons — Tachibana and the Golden Eagles hate the new posting fee cap. They could take that frustration out on Tanaka by refusing to post him, denying the 25-year-old right-hander the ability to leave Nippon Professional Baseball this offseason to join a Major League Baseball team.

But it doesn’t sound like that will happen. Ben Badler of Baseball America breaks it down:

So in the end, while the Eagles are obviously upset that they won’t be making as much money off Tanaka as they were anticipating, if Tanaka wants to make the jump to MLB this season, it’s expected that they will let him go.

A $20 million posting fee is still a substantial amount of money for the Eagles, who control Tanaka’s rights for two more seasons. If they choose not to post him this winter, Tanaka would be only one year away from true free agency, at which point Tanaka might prefer to not be posted and wait another year to sign without any restrictions, leaving the Eagles without any compensation. As one MLB team official put it, whether the Eagles were counting on $60 million or $20 million for Tanaka, in the end, it’s likely $20 million or nothing.

Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 183/32 K/BB in 212 innings this past summer for Rakuten.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.