Major League Baseball will continue negotiating with the Nippon Baseball League this week, as the two sides try to come to terms on a new system for allowing NPB players to sign with major league teams, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. The lack of an agreement has postponed the bidding for pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, one of the top arms expected to be on the market this winter.
Badler describes the posting system as "in limbo" at this point, after attempts to revise the current system have hit opposition from both sides. MLB extended an offer to the Japanese league which they were "hesitant" about, but NPB officials eventually agreed to a two-year deal. MLB officials then took that offer off the table after the GM meetings because of the slow response.
Under the rules previously in place, teams were required to make blind bids for the right to negotiate with a player from the NPB and the team with the highest offer paid their bid to the player's original club once they are able to reach an agreement with the player. MLB wants to lower the posting fee costs for teams and allow a portion of the fee to apply to teams' luxury tax. They have proposed a deal that would require teams to pay the average of the two highest bids. This would reduce the amount NPB teams receive in compensation for the loss of key players, so the resistance on that side of the table is hardly surprising. Applying the posting fees to the luxury tax is really an internal issue for MLB, since such a change would require a revision to the current CBA.
Badler expects that the two sides will reach an agreement before the end of the off-season, allowing Tanaka to be posted. The 25-year-old pitcher is expected to draw interest from the Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Badler has this assessment of the Rakuten Eagles hurler -
Tanaka, 25, would be the top pitcher available on the market, as several teams project Tanaka as a No. 2 starter in the majors and see him stepping into that role immediately. Tanaka throws a fastball that sits at 90-94 mph and touches 96, a 70 splitter on the 20-80 scale, a slider that flashes above-average and a slow curveball that he'll use early in counts. Tanaka posted a 1.27 ERA with 183 strikeouts and 32 walks over 212 innings this season.
Once the two sides are able to reach an agreement,the bidding on Tanaka should be intense. Rangers pticher Yu Darvish commanded a $51.7 million posting fee during the 2012 off-season. While Tanaka is not quite the same ace-caliber arm Darvish is, the lack of pitching options on the market and increased revenue in the game might result in a similar posting fee.