Update: The Golden Eagles will allow Tanaka to move to the MLB if that is his desire, according to Japanese media reports curated by Ben Badler of Baseball America.
The Rakuten Golden Eagles will reportedly have discussions with ace starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka within the next few days with the intention of asking him to stay with the team, reports Yahoo! Japan. (h/t Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker)
Tanaka has not publicly shown an overwhelming desire to be posted. Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana says that the main priority of the meeting will be to ask the pitcher to stay in Japan.
Tanaka has been expected to be posted by Rakuten as a means to send him to pitch in the MLB. However, with imminent changes to the posting system coming soon, the Golden Eagles have much less incentive to put him up for bidding and lose his services.
Under the reported new posting rules, MLB teams would only be allowed to bid up to $20 million for a player. That amount is what would go to the Japanese team as compensation for losing the player. Previously, there had been no cap on bids. The Texas Rangers, for example, bid nearly $52 million for Yu Darvish two years ago. The Red Sox also bid over $50 million to bring Daisuke Matsuzaka to the MLB prior to the 2007 season.
The bidding for Tanaka, who has garnered comparisons to Darvish, was expected to eclipse that of both those players. However, with Rakuten potentially losing upwards of $30 million on his bid under the rules of the new posting system, the team may choose to just keep the best pitcher in Nippon Pro Baseball. The Golden Eagles had been the lone dissenter of the 12 NPB teams of the new posting deal.
Tanaka, 25, has spent the last seven seasons with Rakuten. With a 1.27 ERA over 27 starts and one relief appearance in 2013, he has now posted three consecutive seasons with an ERA under 2.00. And five straight seasons with an ERA at or below 2.50. He has impeccable control around the plate with decent strikeout numbers and has also shown a great ability to pitch deep into games, averaging nearly eight innings per start in 2013.
The Cubs, Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox had all been rumored to be heavily interested in Tanaka. It remains to be seen how the agreed-upon changes to the posting system will effect the bidding for star Japanese players.
The Golden Eagles won their first ever Japan Series title in 2013 thanks in part to the efforts of Tanaka.