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Rakuten Golden Eagles appear likely to allow Masahiro Tanaka’s departure to MLB

Dec 8, 2013, 1:31 PM EDT

tanaka getty Getty Images

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.

  1. blynch67 - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    How much does Tanaka make in NPB? I’m just curious if the pay scale over there is 1/10 of what it is here these days…

    • spudchukar - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:49 PM

      About 1/4 to 1/3.

    • jwbiii - Dec 8, 2013 at 5:21 PM

      ¥400m, or about $4.6m (Exchange rate from 1/1/13 – the dollar is stronger now).

    • jwbiii - Dec 8, 2013 at 6:18 PM

      Other former MLB or MiLB players who played for Rakuten in 2013:

      $750k  Darrell Rasner
       350k  Brandon Duckworth
       350k  Takashi Saito
       350k  Jim Heuser (former A's minor leaguer)
       425k  Kazuo Matsui
       350k  Casey McGehee
       220k  Rafael Poto (never played in minor leagues)
       2.9m  Andruw Jones
       265k  Edgar Lara (for Cardinals minor leaguer)
      It's easier to make a little less than the MLB minimum but a lot more than MiLB scale in the NPB but the maximum salary is about $5m. Because of this, NRI type players like Duckworth and McGehee want to play in the NPB and NPB stars like Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka want to play in the MLB.
      Poto probably signed as an amateur free agent out of Latin America, the same as any Latin player who signs with an MLB organization. Alfonso Soriano started his career with the Hiroshima Carp.
    • jwbiii - Dec 8, 2013 at 6:25 PM

      Sorry. Word Press is weird. I guess it wants (/pre) tags to be on their own line.

      It’s easier to make a little less than the MLB minimum but a lot more than MiLB scale in the NPB but the maximum is about $5m. Because of this, NRI type players like Duckworth and McGehee want to play in the NPB and NPB stars like Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka want to play in the MLB.

      Poto probably signed as an amateur free agent out of Latin America, the same as any Latin player who signs with an MLB organization. Alfonso Soriano started his career with the Hiroshima Carp.

  2. spudchukar - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    He will look awesome in a Mariner uniform. Hernandez, Price, Iwakuma, Tanaka, and Ramirez, what a starting staff.

    • jfk69 - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:58 PM

      So sorry spuds. You blew all your money on Cano. Too bad he can’t pitch.

      • spudchukar - Dec 8, 2013 at 2:03 PM

        Sorry but the Mariners have lots of cash left. After the Cano signing they were only at 60mil entering the winter meetings. Plenty to sign Tanaka, get a first baseman, another outfielder, and still trade for Price. Ol’ Jack is just gettin’ started.

        And to clarify, the Mariners are just my 3rd favorite team.

      • uyf1950 - Dec 8, 2013 at 4:31 PM

        “$60MM committed” to about 6 players, including Cano. Only 3 of those 6 players worth very very much. For a team that has only had their payroll exceed $100MM 2 times this millennium in 2007 and 2008. Considering Price and Tanaka could coast anywhere from $25MM (not including Takaka’s posting fee) to $45MM (including Tanaka’s posting fee) on top of that $60MM. That potentially $85 to $100MM plus expense sounds like a lot of ka-ching for the Mariners for just 8 players.

        As has been pointed out they have the where with all (money) to do it the question is do the owners have the stomach to do it? When they still need to add offense to the team other then Cano. We’ll see.

      • cackalackyank - Dec 8, 2013 at 7:29 PM

        @ uyf You are correct…plus even if they do it, do they see it through? Remember that dynasty they built in Seattle by having Cliff Lee for a half season?

      • spudchukar - Dec 8, 2013 at 11:20 PM

        OK, UYF, let me repeat these facts to you. The Mariners have like all teams been given an extra $25 mil to play with. They also enjoy the fact that next year they get a new TV deal, in a major market.

        This is a franchise that once drew 4 million fans in one season. If they return a quality product to the field, then they will come.

        The notion that the $60mil they currently is going to only 6 players is just plain ignorance. The Mariners have 25 players under contract for next year to a tune of 72 million. Two players Saunders, and Smoak are arbitration eligible.

        The posting fee for Tanaka is a less than the free $25 mil so it can be ignored. Most teams already recognize that.

        Price would be acquired by trade, he currently makes 4 mil. Most people believe he will get a 10 mil raise. If you subtract 3 minimums in the expected deal that means he should cost around 12 mil more for 2014.

        Maybe Tanaka gets 25mil, but I bet it is closer to 20, if that. He is young and teams will try and stretch him to years vs dollars, but who knows. Without any other additions that puts them around $105mil.

        Add a couple of cheap pieces and they go to 120mil, add a coveted guy like Choo and they hit 140mil, still very doable without breaking the bank.

    • johnnysoda - Dec 8, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      Yeah, that’ll be great. You’ll have all that pitching, with no offense except Cano, and wind up below .500 again.

  3. leylandshospicenurse - Dec 8, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    How much is this guy going to get paid? It seems like almost every team in baseball will want him. Boston has a lot of money to spend and the Dodgers don’t seem to mind spending money on high upside unknown talent. Almost every small market team would seem to be in on him is he goes for 15MM AAV. So 20-25MM?

    • spudchukar - Dec 8, 2013 at 2:27 PM

      He’s young, so team will be more inclined to extend years over cash I’d guess. I doubt if he gets over $18 and 5-6 years with options.

      • Drew Silva - Dec 8, 2013 at 2:48 PM

        I think he’ll get much more than $18M in guaranteed money, especially with the new system. There will be a bidding war between a bunch of teams.

      • spudchukar - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:02 PM

        I’ll try this again, but damnit Drew, losing these posts to refresh, is becoming a serious impediment. Anyway you could be correct, the $25 mil MLB awarded teams seems to be helping to loosening up the purse strings, and with the dearth of FA starters still left could elevate his salary. What is fun is that it isn’t just the usual suspects anymore, and the mid-to-low market teams want to make a splash of some kind too. Yee hah, this is fun, monopoly money.

    • thepoolshark - Dec 8, 2013 at 4:21 PM

      With the Dodgers, Yanks, Rangers, Boston, and Seattle, I believe it may take 10/$200 MM to even get a meeting, and maybe $250 MM to sign. It is unbelievable for a guy who hasn’t thrown 1 pitch in MLB, but the Yanks are desperate after watching CC decline, and the Dodgers have proved to be the big spenders they said they were going to be. Throw in the Asian owned Mariners who have apparently opened the Nintendo bank vault, 2 Billionaire owners in Texas, and the Red Sox deep wallets, this may be a feeding frenzy with crazy money being thrown at Tanaka like Monoply Money.

  4. eagles92 - Dec 8, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    The fact that you said you have a 3rd favorite team makes me have no respect for you. I hate people like you

    • spudchukar - Dec 8, 2013 at 2:38 PM

      Elevating attitude.

  5. nsstlfan - Dec 8, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    I like this new posting system a lit more then the old one. Before if you were a small market team you couldn’t even touch Japan stars now everybody has a chance. I also believe someday MLB and NPB will work out a draft system where Japan prospects are included in MLB’s draft and vice versa.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:12 PM

      [damnit stupid report comment, apologies]

      Although, I don’t understand why people are so enthralled with adding players to the draft. All you do is keep money out of the pockets of the player’s and into the owner’s.

    • tfbuckfutter - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:23 PM

      I think the system would work better if they capped it at $20 million and every team that bid $20 million gets to negotiate with the player, and whatever team or teams tie for the posting but lose the negotiations, still have to pay something like $2-$5million to the posting team.

      That would at least keep the Japanese teams happier.

      • vincecully - Dec 8, 2013 at 5:23 PM

        Glad to see this idea. This new system seems like it was thrown together at the last minute and people didn’t realize it could end up benefiting no one.

  6. m3dman3 - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:09 PM


    • jwbiii - Dec 8, 2013 at 8:02 PM

      I don’t think so. I think he’ll be salary cap cost prohibitive for the Yankees. The Rangers paid $108m for Yu Darvish. Nippon Ham got $52 of that for the posting fee with Darvish getting the other $56m. The consensus is that Tanaka is a better pitcher than Darvish and with two years of baseball inflation, I can see Tanaka costing a total of $140m. For Tanaka, that would be $20m for Rakuten and 6/$120m for him. Obviously, the Yankees can afford anything they want, but can they sign another $20m AAV contract and still stay under the salary cap?

      • jwbiii - Dec 9, 2013 at 2:45 PM

        To answer my own question, it largely depends on the disposition of Alex Rodriguez’s grievance. There are several other variable involved, but they are of relatively small magnitude:

        1. The Yankees have four arbitration eligible players. Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors is very good at making projections at what they will make. His opinion is that David Robertson, Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, and Francisco Cervelli will make $14.3m next season.

        2. The Yankees pay their pre-arbitration players fairly well. Last season, it was 3.5% over the minimum.

        3. Benefits count against the salary cap and are pegged to the overall MLB opening day payroll with a maximum increase of 10%. Last season it was $10.8m and the gross salary increased by 5.6% over 2012. Obviously, we won’t know opening day payrolls until opening day, but a similar 5.6% increase would make the benefits payments $11.4m per team.

        I will assume that Swartz’s arbitration projects are close to correct in aggregate, that the Yankees will continue to pay their pre-arb players as well as they have in the past, and that the MLB payroll will increase as much as it did last season.

        This leaves us with Alex Rodriguez. I see three possible outcomes which effect the Yankees 2014 payroll.

        1. Arbitrator Horwitz upholds the 211 game suspension or lowers it to a full year 162 game suspension. The extra 49 games doesn’t matter for 2014. I think is unlikely because judges, and presumably arbitrators, generally don’t like to set new precedents. It’s clear in the JDA that a first offense is a 50 game suspension. Unless MLB has really incriminating evidence that they haven’t already leaked, I don’t see this happening. In this case, the Yankees would have a little under $30m to spend and could be in the Tanaka bidding war.

        2. Horwitz overturns the suspension altogether. This is possible if MLB has no witnesses to support Anthony Bosch. Judges generally take a dim view of uncorroborated testimony from paid star witnesses. In this case, the Yankees would be $6m over budget and trading Ichiro Suzuki for a prospect would be a good thing for them. This would keep them out of the Tanaka sweepstakes unless they were willing to punt on their desire to be under the cap.

        3. Horwitz reduces the suspension to 50 games. This would be in line with the JDA. I think this is the most likely outcome. In this case, the Yankees would have about $2.4m to spend and that’s obviously not enough to sit at the Tanaka table, but might be enough to pick up a backup corner infielder to play for two months. The Third Baseman aisle at Free Agents Я Us doesn’t look so good and it seems that they have had and let go half of them in the last few years: Youkilis, Chavez, Nix, Ransom, Betemit, Reynolds, Adams, Nelson.

        That’s the reasoning for my thinking.

      • m3dman3 - Dec 9, 2013 at 11:49 PM

        The Yankees don’t have a salary cap, they have said that the $189 million was probably going to be blown up. They will post on Tanaka and give him the highest contract.

  7. aphillieated - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    I would love to see him in a Phillies uniform. too bad.

    • spudchukar - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:43 PM

      He’s 25, who would he talk to? Hard to fit in when the club house conversations are about Viagra, Geritol and Depends.

    • tfbuckfutter - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:52 PM

      Ruben doesn’t want him.

      He doesn’t drive in enough runs.

      • Kevin S. - Dec 8, 2013 at 4:10 PM

        But look at all the wins!

  8. albertmn - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    If he seems to be anywhere near as good as his numbers indicate, why would every team not put in a posting on this guy? At least you would get a chance to make an offer (even if your odds of winning are slim), and it doesn’t cost you anything if he signs somewhere else. It could also help a few teams with PR as they could tell their fans that at least tried to get the guy.

  9. yahmule - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    What can we panic over now?

  10. thepoolshark - Dec 8, 2013 at 4:05 PM

    I would guess there are 5 teams that will bid: In order of signing probability

    1. Dodgers: Huge Asian population, instant gate increase when he pitches (well, not huge, because they are already drawing huge crowds again, but could sell out every home game he pitches. Plus, huge jersey sales. They have as much or more money than the Yankees and no hesitation to spend.

    .2. Seattle: Asian owned and Iwakuma gives Tanaka a fellow countryman on staff to ease the transition. Seattle opened their wallet with Cano, and has a HUGE amount of payroll flexibility. This move alone could add 10,000 season tickets along with the Cano deal. Plus, no Washington State Income Tax.

    3. Texas. Like Seattle, Darvish helps ease MLB treansition and gives Tanaka a dinner-mate and someone to talk to. No State Income Tax in Texas either. Billionaire owners have money, and Darvish/Tanaka/Harrison/Holland/Perez gives Rangers a formidable rotation. If the Rangers sign Choo, though, it may drop them out of this race for Tanaka. They are more frugal than the Dodgers and Yanks, and unlike the Dodgers, money IS always a consideration. Daniels won’t go much over team budget to sign both Choo and Tanaka,

    4. Yankees: Lost face when Cano bolted, and the Steinbrenners could put a huge offer on the table to try and regain lost attendance and declining fan appeal. They have the biggest need for him among these top 4, especially if CC keeps declining. Their rotation is old and needs an ace mre than anybody, so they may end up winning this bid.

    5. Boston: Pitching is one thing I believe the Sox might depart from their current 3-year deal strategy which worked so well last year. If they are ever going to splurge on a FA again, like Gonzo and Crawford deals, this might be the guy, who at 25 is way younger than the average FA. Boston also has they money to get this done, and Cherrington no doubt has a free reign, within limits, after winning the WS last year.

    With Tanaka’s new-found leverage via the New Posting System, and the above teams involved, he has the ability to choose a contender as well as the city he wants to live in. This bidding war may get astronomical, and it might take $250 MM over 10 years to get him, which is why I only listed 5 teams, which all have money and aggressive attitudes, although Seattle’s aggressiveness has only started this year. The other 4 are movers and shakers, and are the most likely landing spots IMO.

    If I had to pick a few dark horses, the Nationals have case and are contenders, the Tigers are contenders but have a huge Scherzer extension looming, but the aging owner wants a ring badly and may jump in late like with Fielder. The Cubs aren’t ready to contend yet, but Epstein may make a bold move like Seattle did with Cano, but I don’t see Tanake wanting to pitch in a hitters park and for a last place team.

    If I was Tanaaka, Dodger Stadium and Seattle are closest to fly home to Japan, as well as great pitchers parks, so all other things being equal, these two are the front-runners to me.

    It’s gonna be an exciting few weeks as this plays out. So far this has been an interesting Hot Stove and is still heating up if Tanaka is posted.

    Any other Dark Horses out there? Let’s here it

    • thepoolshark - Dec 8, 2013 at 4:08 PM

      *lets ‘hear’ it, sorry
      * Nats have CASH, not CASE

  11. cackalackyank - Dec 8, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    I think if the Yankees want him they would do well not to piss Ichiro san off. Having Ichiro, and Kuroda both waiting might make Tanaka more favorably inclined to the NYY. I will say that IF the Mariners and Dodgers pursue him there will be a very large fan base ready and waiting for him in the Pacific Basin. Keep in mind Darvish didn’t really have a choice with the posting system as it was then. One wonders where would he have chosen to sign if he had multiple offers.

  12. uyf1950 - Dec 8, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    I think it’s safe to say not a one of us knows how this is going to play out. While there are many teams that now can afford the posting fee of $20MM many of those teams are going to fall by the wayside when it comes down to the dollars and more dollars and more dollars it’s going to take to sign Tanaka. My guess and it only that is it’s going to take 6 years $90MM offer and possibly even a little more. We’ll see

  13. realitypolice - Dec 8, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    It was well known before the posting cap was put in place that the Yankees were planning on blowing everyone else out of the water with their posting bid. He’s pretty much been their number one off season target all along but they haven’t been able to move on him. I assume that since there will be multiple teams willing to offer the max posting fee, it will come down to who will give him the biggest contract. And if anyone thinks the Yankees are getting outbid on this one, I don’t know what to tell you.

    I while I think the “asian population” argument people make for Seattle or LA is highly over rated, it’s not like there aren’t any asians in New York.

  14. vincecully - Dec 8, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    Still don’t see it as likely that Eagles will post Tanaka. 50-50 at best.

    Eagles president is on record saying the team doesn’t think 20 mil is a fair amount, and that they are going to ask him to stay.

    The decision is not 20 mil or 0. It’s 20 mil or keep your MVP who led you to a championship, along with all the additional revenue that comes with that. Eagles are probably a 3rd or 4th place team without Tanaka.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 8, 2013 at 5:35 PM

      • vincecully - Dec 8, 2013 at 5:47 PM

        Thanks. I wonder when that quote is from. I know he said that before the new system was agreed to, but his comments have been different since. Haven’t seen what Rosenthal cites in the Japanese reports today. The quote about intending to ask Tanaka to stay was reported yesterday. Personally, i’m hoping to see Tanaka pitch in MLB next season.

      • vincecully - Dec 8, 2013 at 6:00 PM

        Just checked out the Japanese article, which quotes Tachibana: “If Tanaka wants to go to MLB, we basically would want to let him go (from a personal perspective). But we have to consider whether a cap of 20 mil is a fair amount. The top priority would be to ask him to stay with us.”

        So I think the “we would want to let him go” somehow got interpreted as “likely to post him” – but that doesn’t seem to be what Tachibana meant.

  15. jayquintana - Dec 8, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    I gather several teams will bid $20 million. So how will this work? There won’t be one winning bid, but several winning bids, right? So… if you have a winning bid, you and the other teams that posted the $20 million get to negotiate with Tanaka?

    In other words, Tanaka becomes a free agent that only teams with winning bids can negotiate with?

  16. buffalo65 - Dec 8, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    He will enjoy Toronto. Most multicultural city in North America and let’s face it, who wouldn’t rather live in Canada?

  17. spytdi - Dec 8, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    Excellent take Poolshark

  18. kingkershaw - Dec 8, 2013 at 8:17 PM

    I love it how I haven’t even heard about a Mariner fan for… Ugh…. Well…. Ummm…… Ever. But now with one signing of a top ten player and now they will spring up all over the place. I’m sorry but they aren’t going from being unknown to winning a pennant just like that. I absolutely love the city of Seattle and the surrounding area but they have a long way to go. And if anybody is wondering were Tanaka will land this offseason. Just think Blue.

  19. buffalo65 - Dec 8, 2013 at 8:21 PM

    There is no consensus that he is better than Darvish. Most say the opposite. Darvish is much better.

    • jwbiii - Dec 9, 2013 at 2:58 AM

      You’re right. After reading some more, opinions are split. Small sample sizes. Read a few articles citing an anonymous scout, perhaps the same one, and you get one picture. Read a bunch more, and you get a more mixed picture.

  20. spc7ray - Dec 9, 2013 at 8:31 PM

    Sorry I don’t see the Mariners in this-Unless it is crazy money–The Yanks might spend crazy–The Dodgers are another story–Tanaka will be good but HOW good is the question-One thing for sure if he is good his fans will come-All 3 of those teams have an Asian fan base that kills–IF he is good he will make any owner more money than they will pay him–BUT if he is bad? Wow–There have already been a couple of Japanese pitchers not do well–This is a very tuff call–A lot of scouting research and luck also

  21. spc7ray - Dec 14, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    I read another report that said He was gonna have to wait until next year-That was dated 12-14–after this article–That said I think the Yankees will get him and overpay for him also–the Mariners might surprise us bit so might the Dodgers–one of those 3 for sure–Im a Dodger–I think he wll cost too much so I would go hard after Giancarlo Stanton-We need him more than Tanaka–Price might still happen also–But Stanton would be my #1 priority while trading Eithier or Crawford or both to get him

  22. spc7ray - Dec 14, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    Note–The Yankees should have to pay Arod a whole lot of money period–They knew he was a roid user but signed him anyway–Make Arod And the Yankees pay–Kick Arod out of Baseball at the same time AND make the Yankees pay!

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