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.

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.