UPDATE 6:00p.m. ET: Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana was present at the Winter Meetings Tuesday but said he has come to no decision about whether his team will post right-hander Masahiro Tanaka this winter, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports.
Tachibana said that he won't decide Tanaka's fate until he speaks with him face-to-face next week.
Rakuten's assistant GM Aki Sasaki, also present in Orlando, added that it was always Tanaka's dream to play in the United States. Sasaki wasn't sure if the new $20 million posting fee was a "fair value" for a trade like this, however, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
ORIGINAL: As rumors fly about Rakuten Golden Eagles ace Masahiro Tanaka and whether he will be posted to the MLB, Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana will be at baseball's Winter Meetings on Tuesday, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
Tachibana's appearance could give clarity to whether Tanaka will be posted this offseason. MLB and Nippon Pro Baseball have reportedly come to an agreement on a new posting system, but nothing has been signed at this point. Under the new deal, bidding for a Japanese player will be capped at $20 million. That upset Rakuten, who figured to receive between $50 million and $75 million for putting Tanaka up for bidding.
The Golden Eagles had planned on meeting with Tanaka this week with the hope of convincing him to stay in Japan. The pitcher is under contract, so even if he said he wanted to play in MLB, Rakuten could say no. However, the team has said they will post Tanaka if he tells them he wishes to pitch in America. Tanaka has not publicly stated any desire to move to the MLB.
It seems clear that Rakuten does not want to post Tanaka with the new agreement in place. Losing out on more than $30 million has made the team believe there is more value in keeping Japan's best pitcher on the roster. However, if Tanaka does hope to pitch in the MLB, he could wait until he is a free agent and move to the MLB while Rakuten receives no compensation. The two sides came to an agreement on a three-year deal one year ago, meaning Tanaka would be a free agent during the 2015-16 offseason, when he is 27 years old. Thus, if Tanaka does want to move to the majors, it stills makes more sense fiscally for the Golden Eagles to post him either this year or next.
Tanaka has been oustanding in recent years, drawing comparisons to Rangers ace and fellow Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. Using an outstanding fastball/splitter combination, he posted a 1.27 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over 27 starts and one relief appearance in 2013. He has three straight seasons with an ERA under 2.00 and five consecutive years with an ERA at or below 2.50. Tanaka is also durable; he averaged nearly eight innings per start in 2013.
Rakuten won their first Japan Series title in 2013 thanks in large part to Tanaka's performance over the season. Team's expected to place bids for the pitcher include the Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox and Dodgers among others.