Today could be the beginning of the next phase in the ongoing MLB/NPB storyline …
- A report out of Japan says that MLB and NPB have agreed to a new posting system, a draft is being prepared, and each league will be asked to sign off on it shortly. Last night we heard that it could happen as soon as today. Under the new posting system, MLB teams would still bid for the rights to a player from NPB if his team decides to post him, but those bids would be capped at $20 million. Any team making the top bid – in Masahiro Tanaka’s case, that will be many teams – has the right to negotiate with the player. Only the team that signs him, however, is obligated to pay the posting fee. In other words, when a top Japanese player is posted, he is going to become a glorified free agent – on whom any team can sign, but for whom there is a $20 million surcharge.
- Although there was some dispute about it last night, the Japanese report indicates that even Masahiro Tanaka’s team in Japan eventually agreed to the new system. That should neuter concerns that Tanaka will not be posted under this system, though it won’t eliminate them. Peter Gammons says the team was leaning against posting Tanaka as of last night, though Ben Badler hears otherwise (as does Ken Rosenthal). With two years left of team control, Tanaka’s team could decide to get one more year of performance from him before posting him next offseason. They’d risk injury and ineffectiveness, though, so they’ve got to calculate whether his value for one season (minus his salary) exceeds $20 million.
- It sounds like there will be a one month negotiating period for the teams that make the maximum bid. Depending on how many teams are involved – and, again, given that the posting fee is refundable to teams that don’t sign him, I don’t understand why every single team in MLB wouldn’t make the max bid – that could be a crazy month.
- One positive byproduct of the posting system change, as it relates to Tanaka? With a capped posting bid, the Yankees won’t have nearly as much “free” money with which to play under the luxury tax cap. I wouldn’t dare call the Yankees “out” on Tanaka, but there are already reports that they aren’t a leading suitor anymore. If the Yankees decide to pass on Robinson Cano, however, they’ll still have plenty of space to pursue Tanaka. Maybe he’s the better long-term investment anyway.
- Are the Cubs still going to be in, given that the posting fee may have been a loophole for their own financial constraints? Bruce Levine certainly hears that they will be, saying that they’ll be “big time players.” While he could be incorrect in the end, Levine wouldn’t use those words if he weren’t hearing very positive signals. If the system proceeds as reported, I fully expect the Cubs to make a maximum bid, and engage in serious discussions with Tanaka about a contract. Will they be able to outspend the Dodgers, Red Sox, Rangers, Yankees, Mariners, whoever? Maybe not. But they’ve got as much incentive as anyone to do so. The question is: will the money be there?