The Rakuten Golden Eagles had yet to make any formal announcement regarding their plans for Masahiro Tanaka as of Thursday night despite earlier reports in Japan that suggested the team will not post its star pitcher this year.
According to Hochi Sports, a Japanese publication, Rakuten does not intend to make Tanaka available. Instead, the team will offer him a significant raise, doubling the $4 million he earned last season, when Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA before leading the Golden Eagles to the Japan Series title.
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Compared to what Tanaka likely would get in the States, however, that probably isn't much of a consolation for the pitcher. Now that the "release fee'' has been capped at a $20-million maximum for the revised posting system, and with multiple teams expected to negotiate with him, Tanaka could command an annual salary in excess of $15 million from a major-league club.
Tanaka's fate is a sensitive subject on both sides of the Pacific and a byproduct of a new posting system that has left very little leverage for Japanese teams. The Golden Eagles, with the most to lose under the agreement, did not give their approval during the league-wide vote and reportedly are holding on to Tanaka, in part, to make a point.
But until Rakuten publicly reveals its decision, the possibility that the club ultimately will post Tanaka cannot be ruled out. Despite the $20-million release fee, there is always the chance the Golden Eagles could negotiate a side deal with any number of parties -- from a cut of Tanaka's eventual contract or a payout from his agent.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who does not anticipate getting involved in the Tanaka bidding if the pitcher does become available, raised that possibility this week. Alderson became very familiar with the mechanisms of international signings during his time working for the commissioner's office, and those deals are not always by the book.
"There's a reallocation between the posting club and the player,'' said Alderson, referring to the huge shift in compensation. "Unless the player and the club come to some arrangement. I don't know.''
Alderson was only speculating, but as Rakuten's decision-making process drags on, there might be a growing suspicion of what ultimately could sway the team's decision on Tanaka. Both Major League Baseball and the players' union would be wary of any under-the-table payments from Tanaka to the Golden Eagles, so there is that to consider, too.
In the meantime, the Yankees and a number of other teams hoping to pursue Tanaka must put their offseason plans on hold. In past years, before this revised system was put into place, Japanese players were posted by late November and usually signed by mid-January, at the latest.
With Tanaka, even if Rakuten agreed to post him Friday, he then would have 30 days to negotiate with any team that chose to pay the $20-million release fee. That would extend the process until Jan. 20, and for the teams that failed to sign him, it could be too late to find a Plan B for their rotations.
Beltran signing official. The Yankees will introduce Carlos Beltran during a news conference Friday morning at the Stadium. Beltran agreed to terms on a three-year, $45-million contract on Dec. 6, only a matter of hours after the Yankees learned that Robinson Cano had closed on a 10-year, $240-million deal with the Mariners.
To this point, the Yankees have spent more than $320 million on free agents this offseason, and the only way for them to stay under the $189-million luxury-tax threshold for next season would seem to be a lengthy suspension for Alex Rodriguez, who is due $26 million in 2014.