Even with prized Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka posted and the bidding for his services open until Jan. 24, drama surrounding the new posting system and his former Nippon Professional Baseball team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, simply won't subside.
The latest information comes from Los Angeles Times baseball scribes Bill Shaikin and Dylan Hernandez, who on Friday reported the commissioner’s office is concerned that Tanaka will in some form repay Rakuten for allowing him to make the jump to the United States. And their concern appears to be valid based on recent comments made by Rakuten team president Yozo Tachibana.
The president of Tanaka’s Japanese club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, said at a news conference this week that Tanaka wishes to make donations to improve the Eagles’ stadium and its facilities for players and fans.
The agreement between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball expressly prohibits a Japanese club from getting any value other than the so-called posting fee, directly or indirectly, including through the player, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said.
“We are intent on enforcing all the provisions of the agreement,” Courtney said.
In what should soon be common knowledge, the new posting system has capped the bidding on players coming over from NPB at $20 million. That represents a potentially huge loss for Rakuten as Tanaka may have approached or topped Yu Darvish's $51.7 million bid from the Texas Rangers in 2011. The reason for their frustration is plainly obvious, and you have to believe they would be anxious to get their hands on some extra money if at all possible.
With the bidding fee down, it also frees up more money for teams to throw at Tanaka when negotiates begin. The 25-year-old hurler is expected to cost MLB teams $17 million annually and over $100 million throughout the length of his initial contract. In other words, he'll have plenty of money to spend if he chooses, which in turn means MLB will have plenty of transactions to monitor and review in the coming weeks and months.
The good news for MLB is they sound prepared for this possibility and are far enough ahead in the game to throw out a preemptive warning. The bad news, of course, is it could get time consuming keeping an eye on all future players who are posted and make the jump.
It's also worth noting that Tanaka did not attend the press conference in which these comments were made and has yet to comment on the matter publicly. The possibility that Tachibana was looking to stir the pot exists as well, and may in fact be the most likely scenario.
Either way, MLB is on them like a hawk and ready to make a move if needed. But perhaps the next question should be: Should MLB have the right to dictate how Tanaka spends his money?
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