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Japan's Rakuten Eagles might choose to keep Masahiro Tanaka rather than post him

Rakuten Eagles starter Masahiro Tanaka celebrates his complete-game

Rakuten Eagles starter Masahiro Tanaka celebrates his complete-game victory agsinst the Yomiuri Giants during Game 2 of baseball's Japan Series at Kleenex Stadium Miyagi in Sendai. (Oct. 27, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

The Yankees' biggest competition for Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka might wind up being the Rakuten Eagles. With a new posting system on the verge of completion and the proposed $20-million cap on bids, Rakuten might choose to keep Tanaka rather than make him available to major-league teams.

Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana told reporters on Thursday in Japan that the team needs to have internal discussions about posting Tanaka under the new system to see if it would benefit the Eagles from a financial perspective. After months in which it was assumed that Tanaka would be available this offseason, that would dramatically change the pitching market with the winter meetings set to begin Monday in Orlando.

"We are obligated to provide an explanation to stockholders and fans about whether or not this is a fair deal,'' Tachibana told Sponichi, a Japanese newspaper. "There is a chance we will not take the next step.''

Without an official announcement of the new deal, Brian Cashman refused to discuss any aspects of the posting system or the Yankees' interest in Tanaka, who still is under contract to Rakuten.

While the $20-million maximum for bids would make Japanese players available to a wider spectrum of teams, it would be a greater obstacle to the Yankees, who no longer could secure exclusive negotiating rights by submitting an over-the-top winning bid.

Instead, a number of teams could enter the Tanaka derby for $20 million, a sum significantly less than the $51.7 million paid by the Rangers to pry Yu Darvish from the Nippon Ham Fighters in 2011.

There was early speculation that Tanaka could have commanded a $100-million posting fee under the old system, so it's easy to see why Rakuten is unhappy with the new posting process.

New York Sports