After years of a restrictive posting system that frustrated Japanese players and Major League Baseball teams, the sport is on the verge of a radical overhaul that would turn top Japanese players into de facto free agents, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Nippon Professional Baseball is close to ratifying a proposal from MLB that would cap the posting fee, or the amount of money that goes to a Japanese team for a player’s rights, at $20 million, sources said. In the case of a tie, the player would get to shop for a contract and choose among the teams with the top bid.
The immediate impact would be significant. Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, considered by far the best available pitcher on the market, would be in line for a potential $100 million contract on top of the posting fee, which almost every team in the major leagues is likely to consider maxing out to join the bidding.
In the past, the posting system consisted of blind bidding, with the highest dollar amount getting exclusive negotiating rights. After the Texas Rangers’ winning bid of $51.7 million for Yu Darvish exceeded others’ by eight figures, major league officials sought to overhaul the posting system, arguing it is preferable for players to receive the majority of the money spent on them.
Negotiations on a new system broke down in November after complaints from small-market teams that the posting system was rigged against them, especially with the New York Yankees planning on throwing a blowaway posting bid on Tanaka to drive down the price of his contract as a way around the luxury tax. The league returned to negotiations with a hardened stance, and NPB officials are expected to agree to the $20 million number, though sources said there is a holdup: The Rakuten Golden Eagles, Tanaka’s team, is not on board with the plan.
Some major league officials are also dubious about the proposal. One American League executive wondered whether the $20 million maximum would backfire, arguing that a team like Rakuten surely values Tanaka more than that amount and would be likelier to hold onto him and let him play out the nine-year reserve period Japanese players face before free agency. The expectation is that Japanese teams will respect the decision of players who want to compete in MLB and accept the $20 million figure accordingly.