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masahiro tanakaFor the past month, Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan) haven’t had any kind of agreement in place to govern how players under contract in Japan could come to the United States. Previously, that relationship was governed by a “posting system” in which MLB teams would submit blind bids for the right to negotiate with that player, with the highest bid winning. The agreement that led to that system recently expired, and we’ve been awaiting the resolution of negotiations between the two sides before we know whether top Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will be made available this offseason.

Negotiations should kick back up this week as Jon Heyman reports Japanese officials are coming to the States this week to try and hammer out a deal. The two sides had been very close to a deal that would have left a variant of the posting system in place, in which the highest bidder would have won the rights, but would have paid only the average price between the top two bids. Japanese teams apparently weren’t thrilled with that system (by the way, my guess is they’re wrong that prices wouldn’t still climb), and small-market MLB teams don’t like it either.

Odds are strong that a deal gets done, and it provides for a system very similar to the one we’ve come to know and tolerate. But there’s a chance that the two sides do something crazy, like have three teams win the post and allow the player to choose his team … or something crazy, like not get a deal done at all. In that case, Tanaka couldn’t come to MLB until 2015, at the earliest.

As I’ve said before, the longer this drags out, the better it is for the Cubs. If Tanaka is the Cubs’ top offseason target, and if they have no other big money targets behind him, then they are at no disadvantage having to wait until, say, January or February for a resolution. The same might not necessarily be true for a team that expects to contend in 2014, and needs to make other moves before they are left in the dust. And if Tanaka can’t come at all this year, well, that’s not much skin of the Cubs’ nose, either, given that they don’t project to be a playoff contender in 2014.

Dare we get our hopes up by noting that Heyman lists three teams as the main contenders for Tanaka? The teams: the Yankees, the Dodgers, and the Cubs. Unless the posting system is changed such that the posting fee counts against the luxury tax cap, however, you can still put all of your smart money (and then some) on the Yankees.

  • Jason P

    A-Rod winning his case could be a significant blow to the Yankees chances to land Tanaka. It would put them a whole lot closer to the luxury tax, and they still have other needs besides 1 starting pitcher.

    • Ron

      If the Yankees had to choose one, whould it be Cano or Tanaka?

    • Justin

      Agreed, ARod is a complete dbag/liar and his walk out of the hearing was completely orchestrated and obvious. But I agree that would be a big blow to the Yanks plans this offseason which I would prefer to just ARod getting screwed (which wouldn’t be entirely terrible). My guess is the suspension comes in at around 100 games or so.

    • praying the cubs get ready to win

      The Yankees deserve to pay ARod

      • davidalanu

        Agreed. When teams sign known ped users like arod or peralta maybe they should still be responsible for the money owed to the player while suspended, but have to donate it to charity. Still counts against the tax threshold. Maybe they wouldn’t turn a blind eye then.

  • Abe Froman

    How does the deal/posting system proposal get agreed to on the MLB’s end? Does each team get a vote and they need a majority?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I actually don’t know – yes, the owners vote, but I’m not sure what number is required.

      • hansman

        If I had to guess it’d be a unanimous vote with an understanding that noone gums up the process over minor squabbles.

        • Abe Froman

          Oh like Congress. Am I right, am I right. Anyone?

          Just interested in case the smaller markets/all teams not in the Tanaka sweepstakes decide to vote in their short term interest. However, I can’t think of a time where that happened so like hansman said, the ‘understanding’ may actually still be effective.

  • abe

    If it helps the cubs get him. I hope arod wins

  • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

    I’ll only say this: Best be right about him…probably 105-140M investment. (50-70m post. 55-70 salary)

    His arm does have a few miles on it…and he threw 160 pitches late in the NPB.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/04/sports/baseball/day-after-throwing-160-pitches-tanaka-closes-japan-series-clincher.html?_r=0

    Obviously, he held up. But would you like buying a vehicle after the prior owner trying to destroy value? (medical exam will be quite thorough…)

    From the article: “I am worried about his arm,” the scout said.

  • CubsFanSaxMan

    I know that it is probably a necessity, but I hate the idea of paying “big bucks” and long contracts for a pitcher. Too many things can go wrong with the “multimillion dollar arm.” But someone will, it might as well be the Cubs.

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      But this ignores that a player gotten from Japan is different than a traditional free agent. Here’s the difference: yes, you put a lot up front. BUT you have a good chance of signing the PLAYER to a very reasonable annual contract. If things don’t work out for your club, that player is an easy–and potentially VERY valuable–chip to move.

      Let’s say the Yankees view Tanaka as a 150 million dollar player. So they are willing to spend 150 on him. But let’s suppose 80 of that is posting and 70 of that is salary. Let’s say its a 6-year deal (like Darvish). That’s an average value of of under 12 million dollars that they viewed as a 20+ guy. Now what kind of haul would a guy like that net you in trade if you felt the need to go that way? Just sayin’–the upfront costs make the player exceptionally tradeable.

      Now, consider that this won’t count against international signing money. He can be picked up without surrendering a draft pic.

      In short, signing a guy like Tanka comes with all sorts of saved opportunity costs and a flexibility that is hard to put a price on. Tanaka would have all sorts of value to a team beyond the big number in the big bold headlines that we would all read about.

      • http://www.hookersorcake.com hookersorcake

        You’d think MLB being all concerned with parity and compensation picks, revenue sharing. That they would want the post fee to count towards salary cap. I.E. 80 mil posting fee + 70 in salary salary over 6 years would count as $25 mil per season towards cap.
        That would benefit teams like the Cubs who are not close to the cap and have fans grumbling about payroll. But it would probably drive down the overall posting price. Something the Japanese owners wouldn’t like.

  • Larry adams

    would like to see a posting agreement where top 3 bidding teams could negotiate with the player and their bids would be totaled and divided by 3 and that would be the amount paid to the selling team.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    My thoughts are that if all the trade news about Samardzija are true and that he may be gone before the winter meetings in December. That maybe the Cubs go all in on Tanaka. That would more than make up for the loss of the shark. Don’t forget that there is no loss of their second round draft pick with Tanaka and the Cubs can get at least three young arms in exchange. And Tanaka is several years younger than Samardzija. Tanaka has had games where he has thrown somewhere in the neighborhood of 180 pitches in one game in Japan. Could be a real work horse if they don’t destroy his arm first. Epstein doesn’t want to give up the draft pick for a FA. Samardzija wants to get paid like an ace, but in reality his performance has been inline with a number three starter or two at best. Tanaka is as close to a can’t miss number one as you can get. Anyway if shark goes then he needs to be replaced since none of these young arms will be major league ready. I say let Ricketts pony up the cash for Tanaka and put the young arms in the bank. Have the potential to be in the same situation as the cardinals. More power arms then they know what to do with. Combine that with our stash of position players and the first two rounds of the amateur draft and the rebuild will be complete at the lower levels. Also wonder if the McCann signing affects the Yankees in their ability to sign Tanaka. But that may be irrelevant because the dodgers are going to go big in that sweepstakes. Signing Tanaka would appease the less patient fan base without impeding the plan. Makes perfect sense to me.

    • http://www.bairsdenuni.wordpress.com BAIRSDEN

      Wouldn’t be surprised if that was the strategy. Trade Jeff & aggressively pursue Tanaka.
      Tanaka’s signing contains so many dynamics that this front office likes. Don’t have to surrender a draft pick or incur an international spending penalty. Trading Shark re-loads the farm with pitching talent. If it’s in the budget the Cubs can essentially have their cake and eat it too by re-stocking the minors pitching depth and bolstering their ML rotation.

      On another note: If Barney is a non-tender candidate would Brian Roberts be worth the money to replace DeJesus in terms of the veteran leadership? Hoyer had mentioned they would look at acquiring players similar to DeJesus this offseason.

  • Voice of Reason

    Haren signs with dodgers for 1 yr and $10 mil according to mlbtraderumors.com.

  • Voice of Reason

    And, as always, the cubs were in the runnnnning……

  • Frank

    This has nothing to do with anything, but I am compelled to share it. I found this out tonight.
    What do 43% of men polled prefer over sex?

    Bacon.

    I’m scared and hungry.

    • cubfanincardinalland

      Everything’s cool, as long as their not having sex with bacon.

      • Frank

        What if she was an heiress to a bacon fortune?

        • Carne Harris

          As in money? Or like 40,000 tons of bacon?

          BECAUSE IT MATTERS.

  • anonymous-ly

    Odds of Cubs winning the 2014 World Series 66-1. I would have to say based on all the information available the odds of Cubs grabbing Tanaka are about 50-1. Just let me put it into context. The Ricketts invested about $175 Million in cash to actually buy the Cubs (down payment). You think based on his actions so far they are going to commit an equal or slightly lower amount on one IFA for what it took to actually buy the Cubs? Highly doubtful.

    Based on what they bid on Darvish, you should get an idea of how much the Ricketts are willing to spend out of pocket for an asset. I suspect a bid in the range of $20-35 Million is feasible for the Ricketts and that is probably on the high end. Although it would be a pleasant surprise if somehow they did grab Tanaka, be prepared for bargain free agent leftovers that can possibly be flipped mid-season.

    • Kyle

      Here’s a fun research experiment I’d love to see someone try to figure out:

      Start with 1909 or whenever betting on WS champions began (I know baseball betting is as old as baseball, but I don’t know how old season prop bets are).

      Would betting against the Cubs winning the world series each year be more profitable than traditional investments for that time period?

      • Edwin

        Can you make bets like that? I would think the odds would be so high that you’d never get a great payoff.

        • Kyle

          I don’t think casinos actually accept those bets, and if they did, it’d be at a *huge* vig, so instead of 1:66 you’d be getting like 1:100

  • Blackhawks1963

    Regardless the “system” agreed to Tanaka is going to become a NY Yankee. His chance of joining the Cubs is zero. Let’s not kid ourselves on this.

    • Die hard

      Look at all saved by not

  • Blackhawks1963

    Dan Hareb signs with the Dodgers.

    • TulaneCubs

      That rotation is looking pretty full. Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, Billingsley, Haren and Beckett.

      Wonder if Haren is cheap insurance in case they don’t get Tanaka? Or maybe an indication that they may not be bidding as hard on Tanaka as people suspect?

      Hoping for the latter, but seems like it’s probably the former.

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