Snag in MLB/Japan negotiations puts Masahiro Tanaka posting in jeopardy

Koji Watanabe

MLB has pulled its deal off the table that would have altered the posting fee guidelines for NPB players. If a new agreement isn't made soon, Tanaka may have to stay in Japan another year.

UPDATE 6 p.m. ET: The failure of the new posting agreement could have nothing to do with Japanese officials after all. MLB's small-market clubs reportedly forced the proposal off the table because it did not include a luxury tax penalty for posting money, according to David Waldstein of the NY Times.

Waldstein's information sits in sharp relief to the statements made by MLB exec Rob Manfred Thursday morning, in which he essentially said that Japan was dragging its feet. And because matters weren't confusing enough, a source has told Mark Feinsand of the NY Daily News that the agreement is actually not in danger of falling apart at all, and that Masahiro Tanaka will be posted this winter.

Feinsand also adds that the small-market club/luxury tax issue is a moot point until a new CBA is drawn up in a few years time. In other words, it may be a while before this shakes out.

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ORIGINAL: The most coveted pitcher on the market may be taken off the shelf before anyone has a chance to bid on him. MLB pulled its proposal that would have amended the current Japanese posting system on Thursday, forcing both sides back to the drawing board and leaving the availability of right-hander Masahiro Tanaka this offseason in serious doubt, reports Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times.

MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred spoke in detail on the matter Thursday, stating that it took Japanese baseball officials too long to make a decision on the matter, and that "shifting winds" caused him to pull the proposal:

When we made that proposal, we told them it was important that they give us a timely response. Unfortunately, they’ve not been able to do that. In today’s [owners] meeting, there was discussion that will require us to go back to the Japanese and have some further conversation about the proposal that sat out there for a long time.

"We’ll have to go back and talk to them about where we are right now."

The proposed changes to the posting rules were not very drastic, but they were still enough to keep the Japanese players' union from acceding to it until Thursday morning because of concerns over the players' negotiating rights.

Rather than alter the blind auction process or the exclusive negotiation period, the proposal sought to lessen the posting fee itself by taking the average of the top two bids. It also proposed levying a fee on the winning club if they could not reach an agreement with the player.

Per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, there are "serious reservations" among teams about the posting process, so a new agreement may not be made in time for players like Tanaka to test free agency this winter.

Tanaka, 25, was all set to become Yu Darvish 2.0 before Thursday morning's turn of events. The young right-hander, who posted a 1.27 ERA in 212 innings for the Rakuten Golden Eagles this year, was expected to hit pay dirt as the premier pitcher on the market this offseason. The Yankees, Dodgers and Angels are among several clubs interested in pursuing Tanaka, but they will now have to wait for that opportunity.

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