Masahiro Tanaka is widely considered to be one of the best players available on the market this year, but he may not be available after all, according to Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times. Because of changes to the posting system that regulates the movement of players from NPB to MLB, Tanaka's team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, may decide not to post him after all.
The new deal reportedly stipulates that $20 million will be the maximum bid an MLB team can offer for a posted player. This money is paid to the player's NPB team as restitution. This is a radical departure from the previous system, in which there was no cap on a bid an MLB team could make on a posted player. Both Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka earned their teams posting fees north of $50 million. Tanaka has all the hype that those guys did coming out of NPB, but under the new deal, Rakuten stands to get much less money.
Rakuten was reportedly the last of the 12 NPB teams to agree to the new deal, from which one can infer their reticence to go along with this. Under the new deal, Rakuten stands to get just $20 million if they choose to post Tanaka (teams will surely be lining up to sign him at such a reasonable price). If they choose to keep him though, he will not be a free agent until after the 2015 season. So the question they are asking themselves is whether it is more valuable to have Tanaka pitch for them for another two years and get nothing when he walks, or to post him now and get the $20 million. It seems they are inclined to the former.
Of course, all this raises the question of why NPB and MLB would agree to such a deal in the first place. It gives NPB teams less money for their best players and, apparently, makes it less likely that MLB will get to import their best players. As it is, it looks like a lose-lose. We'll have to see how this develops.