Deal with Japan could take Tanaka off the market

Japan's Masahiro Tanaka throws against the Netherlands in Japan's Masahiro Tanaka throws against the Netherlands in the fifth inning of the second-round Pool 1 game in the World Baseball Classic tournament at Tokyo Dome. (March 12, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty

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A new posting agreement for Japanese players could be in place by the end of this week, according to a source. But with a proposed $20-million cap on bids, the Rakuten Eagles could decide it's not worth it for them to even post Masahiro Tanaka, thus denying the Yankees and other teams a chance to sign what many considered to be the top pitcher available this offseason.

Officials from Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball were expected to talk again Thursday about a revised system, and it appeared that the only remaining holdup was the fixed price on the bids, which Japanese clubs believe is too low. In 2011, the Rangers won the bidding for Yu Darvish and wound up paying $51.7 million to the Nippon Ham Fighters. This offseason, with Tanaka expected to be on the block, the bidding figured to approach $100 million just for the negotiating rights.

But under this new proposal, if multiple teams tie for the highest bid -- up to $20 million -- each would be allowed to negotiate with the player, who then gets to choose between those clubs.

In that sense, the Japanese players would get some degree of flexibility, which they did not have under the old system. But if teams like Eagles are not satisfied with the capped amount, they may simply choose to hold on to their stars instead. Under Japanese rules, players need nine years of service time before becoming an international free agent.

If and when this new system is approved, the Yankees could face much greater competition for Tanaka if he is posted. The capped posting fee will allow for more teams to get involved, and with more money now apparently going to the player, the higher salary would have a much greater impact on a team's 2014 payroll.

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