Is Masahiro Tanaka slipping away from the Yankees?
The Japanese righthander, considered to be the best foreign player eligible to make the leap to MLB this offseason, is widely known to be a top target of the pitching-needy Yankees. But a new structure in the way Japanese players are posted to Major League teams could considerably dim the Yankees chances to land him.
Negotiations to continue posting Japan players to MLB clubs is reportedly in the closing stages, and a basic agreement has been reached between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball, according to the Japan Times.
A new wrinkle of the proposed deal is a $20 million maximum posting fee. That would be a huge downgrade from the mega posting money put forth by the Red Sox to secure the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka before the 2007 season ($51.1 million) and by the Rangers to talk to Yu Darvish before the 2012 season ($51.7 million). Rosenthal reports that if multiple teams submit the maximum $20 million bid, an eligible player like Tanaka would be free to talk with any of them. Only the winning team would be required to actually pay the $20 million fee, so there's little deterrent to nearly any club getting in on a good player's sweepstakes.
Tanaka's team, the Rakuten Eagles, were reportedly reluctant to put a posting cap in place -- which is understandable considering the windfall they'll now likely lose. But the Japan Times reports that Rakuten has accepted the idea and a resolution for the new plan has passed NPB.
That Tanaka is indeed likely to be posted is good news for the Yankees.
Just about everything else? Bad news for the Yankees.
Under the old system, the Yankees could have used their considerable financial muscle to offer an obscene posting fee, blowing away the rest of the field, and leaving Tanaka only one outlet to come to the majors – deal with the Yankees. It was a good arrangement for New York, too, because the posting fee does not count towards a team’s luxury tax calculations. The Yankees want to get below the $189 million luxury tax threshold because exceeding that number carries significant financial penalties.
But now, the Yankees are likely to be one of several teams submitting a maximum bid for Tanaka, and to land him they’ll not only have to pitch him on pitching in New York, but also dig deeper into their pockets than teams like the Dodgers, Red Sox, Mariners or a host of others with money to spend. And that money will count toward the luxury tax threshold.