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Rakuten Golden Eagles may not post Masahiro Tanaka due to $20 million posting fee limit

Dec 7, 2013, 10:10 PM EDT

Masahiro Tanaka AP

Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball recently agreed to a new posting system, altering the way Major League teams pursue Japanese talent. One of the changes capped posting fees at $20 million, meaning that if multiple teams are willing to pay the fee, the player can negotiate with them all, with only the winner being stuck with actually paying the $20 million.

The effect of the new system has been immediately felt as the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who currently control pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, are now much more hesitant to post their star player, per Patrick Newman on Twitter. Newman also translated a Japanese article on the situation in which a Rakuten executive is quoted as saying, “asking [Tanaka] to stick around will be the priority.”

In the event Tanaka is posted, he would become the most sought-after starting pitcher among those still available, jumping ahead of Bartolo Colon, Matt Garza, Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett, and Ubaldo Jimenez.

  1. thebadguyswon - Dec 7, 2013 at 10:23 PM

    Taking their ball and going home. Whatever.

    • Kevin S. - Dec 8, 2013 at 7:05 AM

      Or keeping Tanaka and having him perform for them is worth more than $20 million.

  2. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 7, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    Also note, that per Ben Badler with Baseball America, the Golden Eagles were the one team that were against the posting cap limit:

    While the Eagles previously intimated that they would be willing to post Tanaka, they were reportedly the lone NPB team to oppose MLB’s proposal. The new system could cloud whether Rakuten will post Tanaka, as his posting fee was expected to exceed $50 million previously, and the Eagles could instead opt to keep Tanaka for the remaining two years of his contract. However, sources still expect Tanaka to be posted once the new system is official.

  3. drewzducks - Dec 7, 2013 at 10:58 PM

    That would be hilarious.

  4. derklempner - Dec 7, 2013 at 11:39 PM

    Why isn’t the posting limit whatever is owed to the player remaining on their contract?

    • paperlions - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:02 AM

      For the same reason that Japanese teams can’t simply buy out the contracts of MLB players. NPB teams aren’t obligated to make their players available to MLB teams. They are businesses too, and if a player is worth more to the team than they will get by posting the player, then there is no incentive to post the player.

    • whatdapuck - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:03 AM

      Then the only players that would be posted would be the ones NPB teams are looking to dump. There’d be no incentive to put anyone desirable up for auction.

    • derklempner - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:59 PM

      How can somebody downvote a QUESTION?

  5. vincecully - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:28 AM

    If there was a fee (1 or 2 mil?) for the right to negotiate – charged to the teams that don’t end up signing the player – wouldn’t there be enough incentive for Rakuten to post Tanaka? Or would teams decide not to bid then?

    • mikhelb - Dec 8, 2013 at 2:37 AM

      Even if teams were willing to pay a fee for posting the maximum amount and not signing the player, in the case of premiere players like Tanaka, their team can easily make those $20 millions or more per season by selling merchandise, more tickets, and contracts for the player to advertise products.

      There might be just a limited amount of players with the selling power of a Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki, Darvish and Tanaka inside Japan, but they do exist.

      • vincecully - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:23 AM

        How much does Rakuten want in exchange for posting Tanaka?

        If the new system included such a negotiation fee, Rakuten could receive a total of 40 mil or more, which should make it worth it to post Tanaka.

        At 20 mil, it’s not worth it to Rakuten to post Tanaka. Leaves a messy situation. Tanaka wants to pitch in MLB. Rakuten has to keep him for at least one more year (for business reasons), but then they look bad for not letting him pursue his ambitions in MLB. Majority of fans want to see how he does in MLB. Tanaka seems like a true pro in that he will handle it well if he has to stay in Japan one more year, but it will still be a letdown, at least to fans.

  6. nickp91 - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:29 AM

    Will new posting rules cool the Yankees’ pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka?

    • surefooted1 - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:40 AM

      Only if he isn’t posted. The Yankees can still offer him a Burnett like deal after the $20m fee.

  7. cackalackyank - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:38 AM

    Well, I guess the odds of Gardner being traded for a pitcher, not an infielder, just ticked up a notch or three.

  8. kingkershaw - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:20 AM

    Kinda figured that the new deal would suck.

  9. jss1330 - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:49 AM

    NPB should stop posting players until MLB starts treating with a little respect.

  10. dirtycrumbs - Dec 8, 2013 at 5:02 AM

    way to go MLB, yet another way to keep the best athletes / stars from your league (i.e. like draft slotting, and folding international signing into the amateur draft etc…)

    • American of African Descent - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:31 PM

      There’s nothing stopping a promising Japanese player from entering the MLB international draft instead of the NPB system. But once that Japanese player enters the NPB, he’s got to honor his commitment there.

  11. 18thstreet - Dec 8, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    MLB shoots itself in the foot by preventing the best players in the world to join American baseball. The Golden Eagles should be able to post Tanaka, MLB clubs should be able to bid their best offer, and the Golden Eagles should be able to accept or reject that offer. It’s called a (relatively) free market. I can understand why America’s Supreme Court-endorsed monopoly would be confused by it.

    • American of African Descent - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      And players entering MLB should be allowed to be free agents immediately upon entering the league as opposed to being under “team control” for any length of time.

  12. stoutfiles - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    The current model only lets the big market teams compete for star Japanese players. This new model makes things fair for all.

    • Kevin S. - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      Yes, much fairer now that nobody has access to the best Japanese players!

      • yahmule - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:27 PM

        Well, that’s that then. No point in even seeing how Rakuten actually reacts when the new posting rules become official.

      • Kevin S. - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:46 PM

        Maybe it’s all bluster from Rakuten, but is MLB really better off with Tanaka in the NPB next year? And stoutfiles, you do realize that even if he does get posted, the multiple max-bids will basically make him a free agent and again the big-market teams will have a massive advantage in attempting to acquire him, right? In fact, the additional leverage of only being able to negotiate with one team very well might be worth more than the $30+ million difference in the posting fees. Put it this way… if Darvish posted for $20 million and 20 teams could offer him contracts, does anybody think he’d have gotten less than 6/$97.7MM?

      • stoutfiles - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:25 PM

        Previously only teams like the Yankees and Red Sox could afford to even talk to the player. At least this way everyone gets to. When everyone can talk to him, the offer won’t be low-balled. Yes, the big market teams will still have an advantage as always, but they will have to pay the player a lot more money than they usually do because they won’t have the monopoly on discussions.

        Also, does the bid money count against teams as luxury tax? If not, then this is even better for small market teams.

      • Kevin S. - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:06 PM

        Still not buying your logic. If the overall price increases, it’s harder for small market teams to get involved. It costs nothing to talk to the player – they only pay the bid if he’s signed, sealed and delivered.

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