Bidding if officially open for Japanese right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Major League Baseball informed all 30 teams that the 30-day negotiating window will close Jan. 24 at 5 p.m.
The Rakuten Golden Eagles decided to "post" their pitching ace, allowing him to move to North America, team president Yozo Tachibana announced Wednesday. On Thursday at 8 a.m., teams received notice from MLB that the signing period had begun.
Nippon Professional Baseball recently reached a new agreement that caps the "posting fee" of players moving from Japan to North America at $20 million. The fee is paid to the player's former club, and it buys an MLB team the right to negotiate a contract with the player.
Under the old system, the Japanese team losing a star player to the United States could receive much higher sums, often $50 million-plus.
"I'm grateful to the team for allowing me to try. Now I've made a first step," Tanaka said. "I hope I would receive offers from as many teams as possible so I have a wider option."
Tanaka helped Rakuten win its first Japan Series title last season. He finished 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in the 2013 regular season. He won the Eiji Sawamura Award, the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award, for the second time in three seasons.
According to media reports, teams interested in acquiring Tanaka include the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees.
Tachibana said the Golden Eagles would be thrilled to retain Tanaka if he does not sign with an MLB team.
"I would like him to stay and help us win another championship," Tachibana said last week.