Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball have finalized a new posting system that caps the fee for players at $20 million, a deal that may lead to star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka going on the market.
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Under the rules of the three-year agreement announced Monday, a Japanese club may make players available between Nov. 1 and Feb. 1 and may set a price of up to $20 million.
Starting with the day after a player is posted and continuing for 30 days, any big league team willing to pay the fee may attempt to sign the player. A major league team pays the posting fee only if it signs the player, and the fee is then payable in installments, with the timing dependent on the amount.
A player who is not signed may not be posted again until the following Nov. 1.
Tanaka, a 25-year-old right-hander, went a 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA during the regular season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League. Eagles President Yozo Tachibana said at the winter meetings last week that no decision had been made whether to post the player.
Under the previous agreement, which began in December 1998 and ran through last offseason, there was no cap on bidding and only the big league team with the highest bid could negotiate with the player.
More than a dozen Japanese players have moved to the majors under that deal before the nine years of service time they would have needed to become a free agent in their home country.
Boston obtained pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka from the Seibu Lions before the 2007 season for $51,111,111.11, and agreed to a $52 million, six-year contract. Texas got pitcher Yu Darvish from the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters before the 2012 season for $51,703,411 and gave him a $56 million, six-year deal. Darvish finished second in this year’s AL Cy Young Award voting.
After the initial three years, the new agreement will continue on a one-year basis unless either side gives notice to terminate 180 days before it is scheduled to renew.
While Japanese teams were not happy with the cap on prices, some major league teams had objected that only the richest clubs could afford to bid on top players.
"We are pleased to have amicably reached an agreement that addresses various issues raised by all parties," said Rob Manfred, MLB’s chief operating officer.