Yesterday, we discussed at length the possibilities for a new posting system between MLB and NPB for Japanese players, which included the possibility that the system could involve a “maximum bid.” (The piece also digs into the Cubs as a stealth candidate for Masahiro Tanaka, according to executives from at least two teams. (Which calls into question just how “stealth” they could be.))
Now, Jon Morosi reports that NPB is indeed willing to accept a new posting system that features a maximum bid. In such a system, multiple teams could bid the max amount, and it remains to be determined how the at-issue player’s negotiating rights would actually be determined. It’s possible that the player will be able to negotiate with all teams that bid the max, or could choose only one team with which to negotiate (of course, if teams use back-channels, the effective difference between those two things could be minimal). MLB and NPB are still negotiating just how high the max bid would be.
This is all exceedingly important to the possible posting of Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka, the 25-year-old who has dominated in Japan for years. Without a posting deal in place soon, Tanaka will not be posted this year.
It turns out that could bad news for the Cubs, who are increasingly linked to Tanaka. The expected giant posting fee? It really might not be a problem for the Cubs.
To wit: Gordon Wittenmyer reports, among other things, that Joel Sherman’s suggestion yesterday about the posting fee not being an issue with respect to the Cubs’ spending restrictions is accurate. In other words, for whatever reason, the (reported) restrictive covenants tied to the loans the Ricketts Family took on to purchase the Cubs do not apply to a one-time outlay of cash like a posting fee. Confirming that fact, Wittenmyer says that some on the Cubs’ business side are already “boasting” that the Cubs might land Tanaka. I doubt whether anyone can have that level of confidence right now given all of the uncertainty tied to the posting process, but the mere fact that anyone on the business side is telling other folks that the Cubs might land Tanaka is a good sign. It means that the Cubs do believe they’ll have the money to make it happen – and who better to know that than the business side?
Knowing all of that … do we even want a maximum bid system put in place? If Wittenmyer’s and Sherman’s sources are correct, and if the Ricketts Family is willing to do what it takes to land Tanaka, then the Cubs are suddenly in the same position as the Yankees: the posting fee has nothing to do with any payroll restrictions (the luxury tax cap, in the Yankees’ case), and there is a unique incentive to bid high. In a blind system, maybe the Cubs actually could win after all. (And the Yankees sure are getting close to their maximum payroll level.)
It’s mostly an academic discussion, because it seems like a max bid system is going to carry the day. I guess we just hope that the max level is fairly high, since, going forward – not just for Tanaka, but for all players – the Cubs project to be one of the more financially-able organizations (eventually).
I won’t say that I’m feeling confident about the Cubs’ ability to land Tanaka, but, for the first time, I now really do think it’s a strong possibility. As a 25-year-old pitcher who can be had in his prime for only money, Tanaka has always made a ton of sense for the Cubs. If the money isn’t a problem, why wouldn’t the Cubs be aggressive?
Now we just have to see if MLB and NPB can come to an agreement.