Days after expressing his interest in joining Major League Baseball, it appears Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will stay in Japan, according to multiple reports.
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Several Japanese newspapers reported Thursday that the Rakuten Golden Eagles — which control the rights to Tanaka until the end of 2015 –- will not allow major league teams to bid for him. Rakuten will, however, double or triple Tanaka’s current salary of approximately $4 million a year. The increase would make him the highest-paid Japanese pitcher in history.
Meanwhile, some are skeptical about the reports. "Bizarre news on Rakuten, said one general manager who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Not sure I buy it."
Tanaka, sources tell Fox Sports 1 Insider Ken Rosenthal, is the No. 1 target of at least three clubs – the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Rangers – and probably others. His lack of availability would lead some of those teams to redirect their money elsewhere; the Rangers, for example, could renew their pursuit of free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Coo.
But the Yankees, sources say, are not at this point interested in free-agent right-handers Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza. Club officials believe that those pitchers are unlikely to be worth the salaries they will command, leaving the Yankees with a hole in their rotation.
Santana, Jimenez and Garza would be direct beneficiaries of a decision that forces Tanaka to stay in Japan. Other free agents would benefit, too, with more money available in the market.
Rakuten could post Tanaka after next season or keep him for two more years before he becomes a free agent, eligible to negotiate with any team in any league. If Rakuten does not relent with Tanaka, MLB’s decision to pressure Japanese baseball into accepting a maximum $20 million posting fee likely will draw increased scrutiny and criticism.
Previously, there was no limit on the posting fee, upsetting MLB clubs that believed too much money was going to the Japanese teams. The new system would funnel more money toward the Japanese players, but only if they are allowed to sign with MLB teams.