While the Masahiro Tanaka portion of the MLB/NPB posting situation obviously grabs the majority of the focus when it comes to relations between the primary baseball entities in the United States and Japan, it’s important to remember that Tanaka represents just one example of a player potentially coming to the States during the term of the three-year agreement between MLB and NPB. More importantly, Tanaka is an extreme example, given his status as one of the best players in Japan. For that reason, knowing the particulars of the MLB/NPB agreement might not be all that important, given that you know that he will essentially function like a free agent.
For everyone else, however, and looking forward into the next few years, it’s worth laying out the contours of the recently-approved agreement, announced by MLB:
- If an NPB club wishes to make one of its players available to Major League clubs, the NPB shall notify the Office of the Commissioner of the NPB player’s potential availability and the “release fee” that a Major League club must pay to the NPB club in order to secure the NPB player’s release. The NPB club may not set the release fee at an amount higher than $20 million and the fee cannot be changed once it has been set by the NPB club.
- The Office of the Commissioner shall then “post” the NPB player’s availability by notifying all Major League clubs of the NPB player’s availability and the release fee sought by the NPB club.
- All “postings” of NPB players must be made between Nov. 1 and Feb. 1.
- Beginning the day after the player is posted, and concluding 30 days later, any Major League club willing to pay the release fee set by the NPB club may then negotiate with the player in an attempt to reach an agreement on a contract.
- If a Major League club is able to reach an agreement on a contract with the posted NPB player, the Major League club must pay the NPB club the designated release fee, which will occur in installments, the timing of which depends on the size of the release fee.
- If the posted NPB player fails to reach an agreement with a Major League club, the release fee is not owed, the NPB player remains under reserve to his NPB club and the player may not be posted again until the following Nov. 1.
- The term of the new posting agreement is three years, continuing from year to year thereafter until either the Office of the Commissioner or the NPB gives notice of its intent to terminate the agreement 180 days prior to the anniversary of the commencement of the agreement.
No real surprises there, given what has been reported over the last month. We’ll see huge numbers of teams in on the best players, and we’ll see some interesting side stories for the lesser players, now that the NPB team is responsible for setting the “release fee” in advance. “You want how much for that guy?”