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Report: Rakuten will not allow Masahiro Tanaka come to the United States

Dec 19, 2013, 7:06 AM EDT

masahiro tanaka japan getty

Big news from Japan this morning. The New York Times passes along reports from Japan that the Rakuten Golden Eagles will not post Masahiro Tanaka. Rather, as reported last night, they are going to offer him a contract in the neighborhood of $8 million and force him to stay in Japan.

This would be way less than what Tanaka could earn in the U.S., but what he could earn in the U.S. would mean little if anything to Rakuten, who is under no obligation to post Tanaka. All they would get if they did post him is $20 million, which could be less than Tanaka’s overall value to the franchise if he were to remain with the Golden Eagles. After all, he’s coming off a 24-0 season in which he posted a 1.27 ERA and 183/32 K/BB in 212 innings. What would that be worth to you? Plenty, I bet.

If this holds it’s a big financial blow to Tanaka. And a big blow to whichever of the several major league teams with reported interest in bidding on him who would’ve ended up with him.

  1. uyf1950 - Dec 19, 2013 at 7:19 AM

    I don’t know if I should be surprised or not about Rakuten’s decision. The one thing I am pretty sure about though is if I’m Tanaka I’m pretty pissed at them. I don’t think this is the last we have heard about this.

    • rdillon99 - Dec 19, 2013 at 7:37 AM

      Well, he did sign a contract with his current NPB team, so I don’t think that he has any cause to be pissed at them for forcing him to comply with the terms of that contract.

      I suppose it is possible that the team is taking this position to gain some additional leverage.. eg “Sorry, but we’re not going to let you out of your contract; however, we can be convinced otherwise if you pay us something over and above the posting fee received from the MLB team.”

    • rje49 - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:19 AM

      I’d say the new posting agreement is working as expected. If it were still at $50 million, he’d be gone.

      • doctornature - Dec 19, 2013 at 11:47 AM

        There is a work-around that, according to Baseball America, can be used to increase a team’s $20 million posting fee for a player like Tanaka.

        Here is an excerpt from the story”

        “There is a way for Rakuten to get around the $20 million cap by taking a page from how MLB teams openly conduct business in Latin America. To be clear, there have been zero rumblings of this happening; It’s just an idea of how Rakuten could creatively come to a compromise with Tanaka.

        Rakuten, essentially, would coordinate a package deal with Tanaka, another Eagles player and an agent who will represent both players and align himself with all three parties.

        The Eagles would allow Tanaka to be posted for a $20 million release fee. Rakuten would also take a second player—preferably a low-salary reserve player it won’t miss—and post him, too; we’ll use a $15 million release fee for him, by way of example. The parties involved would all agree that, for an MLB team to sign Tanaka, it also has to sign the second player to a contract worth $1 million.

        For the sake of argument, let’s suppose the Eagles were counting on a $60 million posting fee, and that Tanaka’s total value would have been $120 million.

        If the Eagles are willing to post Tanaka now with no strings attached, the Eagles would make $20 million on the release fee and Tanaka could command $100 million. But since the Eagles seem to be wavering on whether to hold on to Tanaka for another two years, the package deal would be a compromise.

        In the package deal, an MLB team would still pay $120 million total for Tanaka, but it would be partitioned differently. The MLB team would pay $20 million as the release fee for Tanaka, $15 million as the release fee for the second Eagles player and $1 million as the contract for the second player, with Tanaka signing an $84 million contract.

        The Eagles would generate $35 million in revenues from the two release fees. Tanaka would be taking a $16 million hit from what he might make if the Eagles were to just post him for $20 million, but doing so accomplishes his goal of pitching in MLB next season rather than waiting two years, gives him an enormous raise and surpasses Darvish’s contract ($60 million) with the Rangers.”

        Full story here:

      • jm91rs - Dec 20, 2013 at 2:56 PM

        So maybe they just signed Youk to be the 2nd player in the work around? Whoever signs Tanaka has to pay $20mil to get Youk as well. That would be fun.

    • paperlions - Dec 19, 2013 at 9:09 AM

      He may be disappointed, but I doubt he is pissed. All this will do is delay his posting 1 year and risk injury. He just turned 25, teams will line up to offer him just as much next year as they would this year. Assuming he makes it through 2014 healthy, this probably won’t cost him much at all, and considering the really weak 2014 FA market, the bidding may be even more fierce next year.

      He could decline to be posted next year, costing Rakuten $20M, but then he would be assuming a lot of unnecessary risk.

      • uyf1950 - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:57 AM

        I disagree that being posted in 2015 may not cost him much (putting aside the possibility of injury).
        – He could have a down year in 2014 which would cost him money in 2015
        – There are several about 6 or 7 quality starters scheduled to become FA’s in 2015. Now not all of them will hit FA some will be signed before then by their current teams.but the fact that more quality FA’s might/will hit the market could effect his value even if he has a stand out year.
        – Since there is no certainty that Rakuten will post him for the 2015 season if this type of on again off again on again off again situation arises next winter teams may not wait for resolution as they have been doing this year.

        Like I said I think there are far too many variables to just saying waiting a year “probably won’t cost him much at all”.

      • paperlions - Dec 19, 2013 at 11:39 AM

        MLB teams won’t be bidding based on results, they’ll be bidding based on scouting of his stuff. If his stuff his fine, he’ll be paid the same next year as this year.

        Teams still need top end pitching, if there are FA pitchers switching teams, that just moves around the hole in the rotation.

      • uyf1950 - Dec 19, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        @ paperlions, I have to respectively disagree to some extent. Performance/results is always part of the equation. It may not be 100% of the equation or even 50% of the equation but to imply that it is no part of the equation in determining what teams are willing to bid especially for a player(s) that have not faced MLB players I think is wrong. In any case we may get a chance to find out.

      • paperlions - Dec 19, 2013 at 12:05 PM

        What I meant was that he doesn’t have to post another “undefeated” season with a 1.2something ERA. He can have a 2.5 ERA and if the stuff is there, it won’t make any difference. Yes, some teams are hung up on recent performance rather than ability, but most teams recognize natural variation in “production” always occurs. As long as the stuff is there, everything else is a distance second.

  2. giantboy99 - Dec 19, 2013 at 7:36 AM

    Ervin Santana to Yanks.

    • unclemosesgreen - Dec 19, 2013 at 7:48 AM

      Dear Buddha- please let this happen. Ervin could give up 30 HR’s in Yankee Stadium alone

      • cur68 - Dec 19, 2013 at 11:36 AM

        He’d get baseballs murdered in NYS.

      • unclemosesgreen - Dec 19, 2013 at 11:44 AM

        He’s more deadly than the Baseball Furies.

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:55 PM

        Everything ok bro? I’m a noted distance empath – you seem … distracted. Or something.

    • uyf1950 - Dec 19, 2013 at 11:03 AM

      Nah, I think if this Tanaka situation plays out as this article is indicating the Yankees will probably look to either Garza because of him AL East experience and no qualifying offer or Jimenez because he’s a year younger probably going to be cheaper and greater upside potential than Santana and as someone else already pointed out doesn’t give up as many “long balls”..

      • spudchukar - Dec 19, 2013 at 12:38 PM

        UFY, my friend, the Cards have 9 starters they are trying reduce to 5, maybe they would be willing to trade one. Too bad the Yanks don’t have anybody that interests the Cards. Maybe a Betances, Buenalos, Sanchez, and De Paula combination might lure the St. Louis brass into parting with someone like Tyler Lyons.

      • uyf1950 - Dec 19, 2013 at 1:37 PM

        spudchukar my friend, I’m going to hold my breath waiting for the Yankees to make that offer. And I don’t think you should either.

      • uyf1950 - Dec 19, 2013 at 1:46 PM

        correction: I’m “NOT” going to hold my breath….

  3. jonirocit - Dec 19, 2013 at 7:36 AM

    Yeah , pretty sure I wouldn’t be signing anything for them and waiting for my contract to be up , does anyone know how the contracts work in japan ? Do they have free agency?

    • paperlions - Dec 19, 2013 at 9:11 AM

      He can be a FA after 2015. Refusing to make $8M to play baseball would be 12 kinds of stupid.

      American players don’t refuse to play baseball because in arbitration they get $4M instead of the $17M they could make on the open market.

      • number42is1 - Dec 19, 2013 at 9:30 AM

        can you list all 12?

      • paperlions - Dec 19, 2013 at 9:44 AM

        Dumb, foolish, futile, ill-advised, laughable, ludicrous, naive, senseless, shortsighted, rahs, idiotic, and imbecilic.

      • spudchukar - Dec 19, 2013 at 12:27 PM

        How’s that shoe taste Number 42?

  4. airedale1950 - Dec 19, 2013 at 7:50 AM

    I don’t think extortion would be considered honorable in Japan….but screwing MLB okray.

    • clemente2 - Dec 19, 2013 at 3:13 PM

      Grow up.

  5. Charles Gates - Dec 19, 2013 at 7:54 AM

    Just another example of player greed. ARod and Boras are ruining baseball.

    • Jason @ IIATMS - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:12 AM

      Congrats, sir. You are an idiot. Let me know if you need me to list the reasons why…

      • bfunk1978 - Dec 19, 2013 at 9:07 AM

        I think everyone’s sarcasm detector is broken. I thought it was hilarious.

      • pastabelly - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:39 AM

        The idiot is the person who missed the most obvious sarcastic, tongue in cheek post of the day. :)

  6. keltictim - Dec 19, 2013 at 7:57 AM

    I get it. It’s messed up but I get it. If I was the player game one my back and my neck would be killing me. “Sorry coach it feels like I have 8 million little daggers in my back I don’t know what happened, where’s the trainer”

    • paperlions - Dec 19, 2013 at 9:12 AM

      Uh huh….and what is your opinion of the American system that doesn’t allow players to hit the open market until they have 6 years of MLB service time?

    • byjiminy - Dec 19, 2013 at 12:39 PM

      It’s not his Japanese team that screwed him. They were willing to sell his contract for fair market value. The people that screwed him was the cartel of MLB owners who conspired subvert the market by collectively agreeing to refuse to pay the Japanese team what his contract was worth. They had no choice but to let themselves get screwed by some super-rich US team, or to screw their player. They did what anyone would do.

      If you had an asset worth $50 million, and the $30 potential buyers got together and agreed that none of them would offer more than $20 million, benefiting them and screwing you, would you say, sure, fine, here you go! I doubt it.

      It is unfortunate the asset in question is a contract with a human being, and its value is based solely on it granting the right to deny HIM access to the free market value of his services — but at least in that case, he agreed to the contract up front, and should be expected to honor it.

      But it’s no coincidence the rule is costing him and his Japanese team a lot of money; that was its sole purpose.

      • byjiminy - Dec 19, 2013 at 2:10 PM

        Actually, to disagree with myself slightly, I just read about the new posting deal and it was an agreement between MLB and the Nippon League. Doesn’t mean they weren’t strong-armed into it by MLB, but they didn’t have to sign it.

        And another way of looking at the deal is it reduces the amount of a player’s market value that can be siphoned out of his new contract and into his old team’s pocket. For Darvish and Matsuzaka, almost half of what their US teams paid to get them went to the old team, not the player. So it’s nice that’s being reined in.

        The only downside, is it reduces the incentive of the old team to let them leave, as is happening here. So unfortunately the player gets screwed either way. Really not sure what to do about that. Because as of now, I’d probably still do what his current team is doing too. They’re better off making him play out his contract.

  7. jrocknstuff - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    From what I understand, he has 1 year remaining on his current deal with Rakuten. He can play that out and then come over here for nothing and Rakuten won’t get the $20 M, as long as he turns down this $8 M extension they’re offering him.

    • rdillon99 - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:20 AM

      He has two years remaining on his current deal with the NPB team

      • bfunk1978 - Dec 19, 2013 at 9:08 AM

        While he probably won’t get as much in the winter of 2015 that he’d get in the winter of 2013, you can bet that he’ll still make plenty when he comes over on his own volition.

  8. Carl Hancock - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    Maybe he could defect and seek asylum in the U.S. “Please, they’re holding me hostage and paying me $8 million to play baseball when in worth at least double that in the U.S.!”

  9. 18thstreet - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:19 AM

    It will be interesting if this causes MLB to reconsider its posting system.

    • flamethrower101 - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:29 AM

      Doubt they will, although I do wonder if it ever occurred to those at MLB if setting the posting fee so long would cause Japanese teams to reconsider posting their players completely.

      I like the system but I don’t like that the posting fee is so low. If it were high – say, $30MM or $35MM – this may not even be an issue. It would’ve be the $51.7M the Rangers put up for Yu Darvish but it’s better than $20MM

      • anxovies - Dec 20, 2013 at 7:20 PM

        One solution might be to link the positing fee with the player’s contract in the US. If Tanaka were to get a 3 or 4 year contract for, let’s say $60M, then the Japanese team gets paid a sizeable percentage of the contract price. To avoid a situation where US teams offer 1 year contracts you could make it effective for the first 3 or 4 years the the player plays in the US.

  10. leylandshospicenurse - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:32 AM

    They will hold him another year then post him and get 20MM even if he regresses some. This was a predictable move.

    • rdillon99 - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:39 AM

      That move is not without risk… Tanaka may decide that it would be in his best interests to play out the final year of his contract in the NPB and then become a true free agent at the end of the following year. He would then be free to sign with whatever team he desires, and since the MLB team will not have to pay a posting fee, the $20M that would otherwise have to be paid to a NPB team could be used to bump up the total value of any contract offered to him.

      • paperlions - Dec 19, 2013 at 9:15 AM

        With the new posting system, he’ll still be free to sign with whomever he wants. At least 25 teams will agree to the $20M fee, it doesn’t cost anything to say you will pay it and then not wind up signing him.

        It would be a lot of risk for him to assume, just like it is a lot of risk for the team to assume this year…but even if he has to have TJ surgery, there are probably teams willing to pay the $20M and bet that he comes back 100% healthy.

      • byjiminy - Dec 19, 2013 at 12:44 PM

        Good point that it frees up $20 in money not spent on a posting fee, which could be instead go toward bidding up his contract. But he has to wait two additional years, not one. So he’s also losing two years of salary, and entering the market two years older. I doubt he comes out ahead. But there is an upside for him (and downside for his NPB team).

  11. jm91rs - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    I certainly understand Rakuten’s approach here. Imagine if David Price said “I don’t want to play here anymore, trade me to Japan for $20M.” Hell no you’re not trading your best pitcher for $20 million. He’s worth far more than that if he’s one of the stars of the league. I’m sure when his contract is up he’s going to tell them to shove it, but I can’t blame Rakuten because I wouldn’t let him out either.

    On a side note, I get emails every day from Rakuten ( Who the hell signed me up for that?

  12. sdelmonte - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    That sound you just heard is Matt Garza’s agent’s phone ringing.

  13. ctony1216 - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    There’s still some risk involved for Rakuten. Tanaka could get hurt or have a bad year, and/or he could chose to stay with Rakuten until he becomes a free agent in two years. In each of these cases, Rakuten could get $0 if Tanaka left for the U.S.

    Tanaka is reportedly going to get a new contract worth $8 million this year, so he must be worth at least $28 million in revenue to Rakuten for them to not to collect the $20 million posting fee.

    • rje49 - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:14 AM

      Not to mention he WON”T go 24-0 again next year.

      • derklempner - Dec 19, 2013 at 5:38 PM

        I’ll be laughing at this comment if he ends up going 25-0 instead.

  14. ienjoysensi - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    You can book the Yankees and now the Red Sox to be in a big battle for this guy next year with all the money coming off their books . Ben is most likely a happy man this morning. Yankees would be much better off signing garza then Santana IMO he’s a proven AL East arm.

    • pastabelly - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:35 AM

      Why do you think the Red Sox would be in on this? They have Lester up in 2015 and that will cost them $20 million plus per season. I’m hoping Lester, Lackey, Buchholz, and Doubront can be the top four for the next 3-4 years and Owens or Reynaudo take one or two of those or the remaining spots. I think Boston is happy just keeping Tanaka out of the league (and away from the Yankees) for 2014.

      • ienjoysensi - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:55 AM

        Excuse me ?….. Wishful thinking on four years out of lackey and even bucholz with the way his back acts up every year. Lester is a stud but is inconsistent from time to time. With all the money they have next year and the fact they have most positions covered for now and the future ( via farm ) , to think they won’t make a run at tanaka is ludicrous , one to keep him out of NY , and two , because they will have more then enough money to sign him. I personally think lackey and middlebrooks get shipped out for a center fielder during spring training. Sox will resign Drew .

      • ienjoysensi - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:59 AM

        I agree for the most part though, just was reading an article about who to expect to make the biggest splash in FA next year and the Red Sox popped up a few times. No doubt they are set up for success for a long time with all those prospects. But the Sox are a big market team and they will have money to spend. And they will spend it , just not on ridiculous contracts like elsburys. Tip of the hat to Ben, he’s been excellent.

      • pastabelly - Dec 19, 2013 at 11:43 AM

        I don’t think the Red Sox will get into ridiculous bidding wars for pitchers anytime soon. That’s all. The Yankees need pitching more than the Red Sox do. They have more money than the Red Sox do. Those two factors combined mean that bidding against the Yankees for Ellsbury or Tanaka is foolish. I never wrote that they were going to get four years out of John Lackey. They have him for 2014 & 2015 under a very favorable deal. Lester is actually very consistent when compared to the great majority of starters over the past seven years. They won’t be so quick to write off Buchholz either. They certainly were not going to post for Tanaka’s services this year and won’t do it next year either as they are close to luxury tax limits and will probably re-up for another year of Ortiz and, hopefully, one or two more for Uehara, if he resembles close to his 2013 form. I am not seeing the same style of aggressive free agency bidding from the Red Sox as some of you are. They are into overpaying 2-3 years for primes of players and nothing more. Tanaka will attract the money and years that the Red Sox will simply not go for. This is not the same front office that signed Gonzales and Crawford to those deals.

    • 18thstreet - Dec 19, 2013 at 11:00 AM

      It’s really good news for the Red Sox, who probably need to (or ought to consider) trading away one of their starting pitchers. John Lackey is very inexpensive for the next two season, for example. (I don’t think Ryan Dempster has much value, especially at his salary). Jake Peavy is affordable.

      And the Red Sox have a bunch of AAA arms who are knocking on the door. Brandon Workman is probably good enough to be a fifth starter right now. Really, the whole starting rotation down in Pawtucket is impressive. I don’t believe for a second that all of them will pan out — that’s not what happens with prospects — but if you’re a rebuilding team, you’ve got to be intrigued by Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, and the others.

      That there’s one less starting pitcher on the market is good news for Boston; I believe they were never likely to be buyers.

      On the other hand, I look at what the Tigers just got for Doug Fister, and think the Red Sox should hold onto all of these guys. Fister’s a better option than anything the Red Sox would trade away, and he didn’t net all that much.

      • ienjoysensi - Dec 19, 2013 at 3:36 PM

        @pastabelly To simply say they are not going to bid for him you must have a “source” I don’t . What happens if the pitchers you mentioned don’t pan out this year ? And the Red Sox have the money to go get a potential ace while keeping him from going to NY ? Cherington has been the GM for one season. You can’t judge what he will and won’t do off of a year. In this day and age if you can get a Ace that’s 26 years old without giving a draft pick up for under 150 mill , it would seem like a steal if he pitches anywhere close to how Darvish is pitching for the rangers.

  15. dluxxx - Dec 19, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    If they’re offering him a contract of $8 million, then I’d make sure it was a one year contract and tear up the remaining two years left on my current deal if I was Tanaka. Play out the year and then rake in that extra $20 next year as a free agent. Sure, he’d probably make more money this year, but the $20 posting fee would basically be taken out of his contract. Now he can essentially be paid $28 million to play this year. Granted the $20 million will be delayed till next year, but it’s more in his pocket.

    That’s just me though. Maybe I’m all effed up on the numbers.

    • byjiminy - Dec 19, 2013 at 12:47 PM

      My understanding is he’s not a free agent for two more years, whether he signs a contract or not. So it’s take the $8M or sit out, just like your first few years in MLB.

  16. delsj - Dec 19, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    It’s a smart business move by Rakuten to keep Tanaka for 2014. The risk to Rakuten is minimal compared to the risk for Tanaka, and that risk would be compounded if Tanaka decided to stay for 2015 out of spite for his team.

    His numbers next year are likely to be less gawdy than this year, but short of a career threatening injury or a total mechanical meltdown, you can’t tell me there won’t be at least one team willing to take a $20M flyer to get his rights next year. If he has a minor/routine injury or if he plays poorly, the contract Tanaka signs may be less valuable because of risk introduced in 2014, but that won’t affect Rakuten getting their $20M. If Tanaka decides to stay in Japan, well then he’s another year older and two years removed from one of the best seasons in Japanese baseball. Teams won’t roll the $20M posting fee into a contract offer. The market dictates the contract terms. There would just be more cheap owners in the mix that were unwilling to part with $20M of their revenue sharing booty.

  17. tcostant - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Good for them, they were figuring on $50M or so, before this new posting deal. As for Tanaka, he just needs to pitch well until he is a full free agent and then he can get even more from the big (because he will be a free agent and multi teams will drive up bidding and the aquiring team can pay more since $20M won’t go to the team).

  18. dakotaandotter - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    how can it be a blow to the team that would have ended up with him when we have no idea who that team is?

  19. uyf1950 - Dec 19, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    Now this is being reported on MLBTR:

    Rakuten Planning Record Offer For Tanaka
    By Aaron Steen [December 19 at 11:47am CST]
    11:47am: Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana told reporters in Sendai today that Tanaka could still be posted, as they’ve yet to make a decision on the matter and discussions are ongoing, according to a report from Sponichi (Japanese link).

  20. cackalackyank - Dec 19, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    Ubaldo Jiminez, Matt Garza, Irvin Santana and their agents LOVE this news.

  21. spc7ray - Dec 19, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    Tuff call for everyone–that said Im on the side of the Japanese owners–What if the Angels had to give up Mike Trout or worse the Dodgers had to give up Kershaw–That’s what the Japanese owners are dealing with–sure its a gamble for everyone-The owners could get nothing for him after 2015–He would be a free agent–He could also get hurt before then–That said I think The Japanese owners and Tanaka will work out some kind of deal before the Feburary 1st deadline this year

  22. voidhelix - Dec 20, 2013 at 3:55 AM

    He`ll be posted. Winner winner chicken dinner.

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