After months of negotiations, Major League Baseball announced Monday that it has agreed to terms on a revised posting system with Nippon Professional Baseball, a step that sets up a decision on whether pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will be made available for the 2014 season.
Tanaka, who has drawn interest from the Yankees and other MLB clubs, is scheduled to discuss the matter with his team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, in Japan this week. While Rakuten ultimately will make the final call on posting Tanaka, the new process is far less lucrative for the Japanese club and more beneficial to the player, which is why the Golden Eagles opposed this revised version before it was approved by NPB.
Under the guidelines, MLB teams must pay a "release fee" to the Japanese club capped at $20 million. Any teams willing to do so are eligible to negotiate with the player for up to 30 days, which begins the day after MLB is notified of his club's intention to post him. If a contract with the player is finalized, the MLB team must pay the release fee, as set by the NPB club, in a series of installments, depending on the size of the fee.
The negotiations did hit a snag or two along the way, and not everyone is thrilled by the new terms -- especially Rakuten, which could have made close to $100 million in posting fees under the old secret-bid, one-team system. The Japan Times reported that the Golden Eagles did not vote in favor of the revisions and also indicated they might choose to hold on to him for another year.
Tanaka, 25, won't be a free agent until after the 2015 season, and the timing right now could not be better for him personally. He went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA during the regular season in helping Rakuten win the Japan Series title.
Yu Darvish received a six-year, $56-million contract from the Rangers in 2012, but that was offset by a $51.7-million posting fee. This time, with the likelihood of multiple teams involved and a far lower release fee, Tanaka's contract easily should surpass Darvish's.
Not ideal for a team like the Yankees, who might have trouble affording Tanaka if they seriously intend to stay below the $189-million luxury-tax threshold. As in the old posting system, the release fee does not count toward the MLB team's payroll for luxury-tax purposes.