Following Major League Baseball and Nippon Pro Baseball's ratification of a new posting agreement Monday evening, the big question remaining is whether Rakuten Golden Eagles ace Masahiro Tanaka will be on his way to America.
Rakuten is loathe to post Tanaka now that the most they can receive for him is officially $20 million. It had been rumored earlier in the offseason Tanaka could see a posting bid of up to $100 million had the old system of blind bidding remained in place. Thus, the Golden Eagles are losing out on up to $80 million.
Under the new posting process, a Japanese team chooses a release fee not to exceed the $20 million limit. All 30 MLB teams are then allowed to negotiate with a posted player. If a deal is reached, the MLB team that signs him is then required to pay the release fee to the NPB team.
There have been plans in place for Rakuten to meet with Tanaka in an effort to convince him to stay in Japan for one more season. He is signed for two more years, meaning Rakuten could maximize their revenue by keeping Tanaka around for a farewell tour and posting him next offseason. If he is not allowed to negotiate with MLB teams this year, he certainly will be in 2014 else Rakuten risks Tanaka leaving as a free agent and loses out on the release fee.
The Golden Eagles have previously shown a willingness to post Tanaka if he expresses a public desire to play in the MLB, something he had not done until recently. On Tuesday, Tanaka held a press conference saying he would like to move to America and he had asked Rakuten to allow him to leave. However, the team is still balking at the possibility of losing their star and remains hopeful they can persuade him to stick around.
A determination on whether Tanaka will pitch in Major League Baseball next year is likely to come very soon, possibly even on Tuesday. Following news of the new posting agreement, a Japanese newspaper, Sankei Sports, reported that Tanaka would be allowed to pitch in America. However, that report did not include any quotes from high-ranking Golden Eagles officials.
Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana told reporters that the Golden Eagles "need to reach a conclusion as soon as possible" and that he is unsure if Tuesday's talks will be the end of discussions.
If Rakuten does post Tanaka this offseason, the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox and Rangers are all among those expected to enter contract discussions. Given the lower release fee that teams would have to pay, Tanaka is expected to earn upwards of $100 million.