Major League Baseball and top-flight Japanese league, Nippon Professional Baseball, agreed on Wednesday to a new posting system. This is the first step in the possible international transfer of Japanese ace pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
The posting agreement stipulates that any MLB team wishing to make an offer to a contracted Japanese player, must first post a bid for that right. The MLB team which posts the highest bid -- now capped at 20 million dollars US -- attains the right to negotiate with the player. If that player is signed by the MLB club, the Japanese team which posted the player receives the posting bid. If that player is not signed, the posting bid is returned to the MLB team.
This deal is especially pertinent to Masahiro Tanaka: the Japanese star who has dreams of making a big splash in the states. Tanaka is Japan’s most dominant player. This past season, the 25-year-old was positively sublime; going an unbelievable 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA, setting a new Nippon record by winning his 26th consecutive decision in the process. The prodigious righty has stellar career numbers, posting a 99-35 record with a 2.30 ERA throughout his -- already -- 7 years with the Rakuten Gold Eagles.
The final obstacle for Tanaka is to receive consent to be posted from his professional club. The new posting agreement could make that a somewhat difficult proposition.
Before this new agreement capped posting bids at 20 million dollars; Japanese teams could accept bids of any amount. The Tokyo-based Seibu Lions netted 51.11 million dollars from the Boston Red Sox after posting their ace Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006. The Nippon-Ham Fighters garnered an almost identical figure from the Texas Rangers in 2011 for the services of Yu Darvish.
This past season, Darvish led the majors with a staggering 277 strikeouts, and placed second in the Cy Young voting. Implausible as it may seem, many MLB scouts have proclaimed that Tanaka is even better.
The Rakuten Gold Eagles feel jilted by the new agreement, as they are ostensibly being forced to leave 30-plus million dollars on the table if they post Tanaka. "We don't know if this is the right value for this type of trade," said Rakuten assistant GM Aki Sasaki in reaction to the new agreement. Rakuten had previously vowed that they would respect Tanaka’s wishes to be posted if he was insistent on leaving.
Yankees front-runners for Tanaka
The last two weeks have yielded a torrent of transaction activity for the New York Yankees. They signed all-stars Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, while also re-signing Hiroki Kuroda; who was the team's ace for much of this past season. It was, however, their abstinence from splurging on Robinson Cano that made the most waves. Allowing Cano to be placated by Seattle -- for better or worse -- certainly has been an impetus to spend on the team’s other needs. Chief among them now, is filling their starting pitching rotation. The Yankees have been unabashed in their enthusiasm for Tanaka and are widely expected to make the hardest play for his services.
A decision from Tanaka’s team is expected by the weekend.