Masahiro Tanaka rumors: Rakuten could avoid $20 million posting cap

Koji Watanabe

There's always a loophole if you look hard enough...

The Rakuten Golden Eagles could potentially get much more money for posting Masahiro Tanaka than the $20 million release fee if they employ the "package deal" tactic often used in Latin America, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America.

While there is absolutely no word that this option is on the table, Badler speculates that the Golden Eagles could rectify their discontent with the new posting fee cap by packaging Tanaka along with another, less-coveted Japanese player in order to get a larger return.

In the scenario Badler proposes, Rakuten would allow Tanaka and another Eagles player to be posted under the orders that Tanaka will only sign with an MLB club if the other player is given a contract as well. The deal for the secondary player could be as little as the league minimum, but his release fee would be considerably more, allowing Rakuten to net much more than the $20 million they'd get from sending Tanaka stateside alone.

The key cog in these dealings would be a fourth party, an agent, who would be aligned with the interests of Rakuten, Tanaka, and the other player. This agent would ensure that Tanaka doesn't agree to a deal until the second player is signed, which ensures that Rakuten receives two release fees. The total wouldn't come close to the $60 million or so that the club was hoping to get before the posting rules changed, but it would net them as much as $40 million.

According to Badler, this type of deal is carried out in Latin America "all the time, for a variety of reasons," so it may not be so far-fetched a scenario here. Circumventing the new posting system probably wouldn't be the best way to christen the three-year deal between MLB and NPB, but Rakuten has been fairly steadfast in their stance that the current cap is unfair to Japanese clubs.

Another potential way for Rakuten to recoup more than the agreed upon $20 million, per Badler, is to make an agreement with Tanaka that adds caveats to his posting. For instance, the club could tell Tanaka that they'll post him, but only if he agrees to pay them a certain percent of his MLB contract once he's stateside.

Tanaka, 25, has been sitting in posting limbo for much of the offseason. The young right-hander has made it known that he wants to pitch in the U.S. in 2014, but Rakuten has not made a final decision about whether to allow him to do so. The club has two years of control remaining over Tanaka, so if they decide not to post him, it's possible he'll stay in Japan through the 2015 season.

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