Rakuten Golden Eagles president Yozo Tachinaba says he has "basically decided" on whether or not the team will allow star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to make the move to the United States this offseason, reports Yahoo! Japan via Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker.
Officials from Rakuten and Tanaka will meet one more time within the next day or two, when the Golden Eagles are expected to voice their decision to the pitcher.
A number of teams' offseason plans have been on hold while a final decision on Tanaka is made. The Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers and Red Sox have all been rumored to be interested in the Japanese ace, with the first two being most-mentioned as candidates to sign him. The Rangers had also been rumored to be a prospective bidder, but after signing Shin-Soo Choo they no longer appear to have the funds.
If Tanaka is indeed posted, all 30 MLB teams will be allowed to negotiate a deal with him. That's a change from past years when there was a blind bidding system for the right to discuss a contract with the player. Now, a team that comes to an agreement with a player will be required to pay a "release fee" set by the Japanese club that can be no larger than $20 million.
That last detail has been the sticking point for Rakuten. Before the new system was agreed upon earlier this month, Rakuten had figured to receive somewhere around $75-100 million in a bidding process. Now that they are potentially losing out on over $50 million, the team has given thought to just keeping him on the roster. He is still under contract for two more seasons, meaning the Golden Eagles could force him to stay one more year and post him next offseason before he will become a free agent and could sign with any suitor with his former club receiving no compensation.
For his part, Tanaka has stated a desire to play in America. Rakuten had previously said that they would allow him to leave if he publicly said he would like to play in Major League Baseball, but they now appear to be balking on that commitment.
There have been conflicting reports out of Japan whether the team would post Tanaka or not, but it appears there will be a resolution very soon.