As free agency is officially underway, one of the lingering questions is when Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka will be posted by his team, the Rakuten Eagles.
Tanaka and the Eagles won the Japanese Series championship over the weekend, with Tanaka losing Game 6, but rebounding by saving Game 7 the very next day. While this would never happen in the big leagues, it’s considered an honor for the number one starter to get the save in the decisive game in Japan.
However, Tanaka’s performance has some scouts worried about his arm according to David Waldstein of the New York Times:
The scout said Tanaka, who gave up two hits and struck out two on Sunday, was throwing between 92 and 94 miles per hour, slightly lower than his usual velocity, which ranges from 90 to 96 m.p.h. His pitches were, perhaps predictably, up in the strike zone.
The cause for concern is the fact that Tanaka threw 160 pitches in Game 6 and came back to throw 15 more pitches in Game 7, totaling 175 pitches over the two days.
Along with the Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and Anaheim Angels all have voiced their interest in the 25-year-old right-hander. During the regular season, Tanaka posted a regular season record of 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and is certain to surpass the $51.7 million posting fee that Rangers starter Yu Darvish fetched two years ago.
After signing international stars such as Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu the past two years, the Dodgers continued their international efforts this off-season after agreeing to a four-year deal with Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero.
If he does end up signing a deal with a major league team, Tanaka will almost certainly not be throwing 160 pitches in one start as he’d be arguably the top free agent pitcher on the market if he’s posted.
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