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While there are a couple hurdles before the deal is finalized, Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball have come to an agreement for a new posting system. Under the old system teams had to submit a bid during a four-day silent auction. At the end of the auction, the highest bidding team would have exclusive negotiating rights with the player for 30 days. The team was only responsible to pay their posting fee bid to the player’s old team if they were able to come to an agreement during the 30-day period. Major League teams had no monetary limit for their bids under this system which saw posting fees of $51.1 and $51.7 million, paid by the Red Sox and Rangers respectively.
The system had never been a perfect one and was oft criticized for not giving the Japanese player much choice in where he played. This new agreement strives to fix those problems.
Unlike its predecessor, which allowed outrageous bids, the new system has a $20 million cap. If multiple teams should bid the same amount, then they are all able to negotiate with the player during the 30-day contract window. The team that does sign the player is the only one required to pay the posting fee.
The biggest impact that this change makes is that now players posted on the system essentially become free agents with the ability to choose where they play. This will likely boost the contracts of star Japanese players who come over as they money that was spent on the $50 million bids can now be added to their contracts.
Before the posting system was changed, there were rumors of a $75 million posting fee. What player could garner such attraction? That would be Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka, who is 25 years old, is coming off a season where he went 24-0 (that’s right, 0 losses) had a 1.27 ERA (for the second time in his career) and capped it off winning the NPB’s equivalent of the World Series. Every front office in Major League Baseball would love to add him to their starting rotation, especially the pitching-poor New York Yankees.
While many expected Masahiro Tanaka to be posted this offseason the changes in the posting system have delayed that process. There have even been rumblings that the Rakuten Golden Eagles may not want to post Tanaka this offseason due to the changes in the system. With the $20 million cap, the Golden Eagles stand to lose out on close $50 million and may decide it is not worth to post Tanaka yet. They hold him under contract for two more years and they are guaranteed to receive the maximum $20 million dollar bid. They may decide to hold on to him for one more season as they defend their title and collect the tidy $20 million sum next year.
The Yankees are certainly involved with Masahiro Tanaka. The Blue also seem willing to spend money and need pitching, so it would not be surprising if they were involved as well. The Red Sox on the other hand have 6 starting pitchers for 5 positions, so they have no need for Tanaka. This could change if the Tanaka posting was pushed back one year. After 2014, Peavy and Dempster will be off the books and Lackey will be playing on a one-year minimum contract so the Red Sox will have the spot open and the financial flexibility. Tanaka will still be only 26 next offseason so would be a worthwhile investment. This of course depends on what the Rakuten Golden Eagles do next. Until then, all of baseball waits.