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Masahiro Tanaka rumors: MLB concerned over possible posting side deal

The Rakuten Golden Eagles might have a donation deal with Tanaka in place, in violation of the new posting agreement.

Rakuten Golden Eagles President Yozo Tachibana at the Winter Meetings
Rakuten Golden Eagles President Yozo Tachibana at the Winter Meetings
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball has asked pitcher Masahiro Tanaka's former team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, to provide written assurance that they will not receive any money beyond the maximum $20 million posting fee allowed by the new agreement between the two leagues, according to Bill Shaikin and Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.

MLB's request for a written promise comes after Shaikin and Hernandez reported that Golden Eagles president President Yozo Tachibana had told the Japanese mediat that Tanaka told him he wanted to "repay the team that developed me" and implied that some side agreement between Rakuten and Tanaka had been made in which the pitcher would-

"cooperate and donate...starting with improving the environment for the players and to make sure it's the kind of stadium that can be loved by [local] fans."

Any such agreement would appear to violate the new posting system deal between Nippon Professional Baseball and MLB, which bars NPB teams from receiving any value beyond the posting fee. To this point, Tanaka and the Golden Eagles president have both declined to comment on the reported statements and MLB's request for written assurance, according to Shaikin and Hernandez.

The new posting system has greatly upset Rakuten and Tachibana has referred to it as "unfair." After the agreement which caps posting fees at $20 million was reached on December 1, it initially appeared that Rakuten would not post Tanaka. At least one expert on international players, Ben Badler of Baseball America, expressed concern that some type of loophole would be employed to bring more money back to the team and if the reports out of Japan concerning a donation from Tanaka are accurate, it appears that those concerns were justified.

At this point, it is unclear whether or not there is a loophole that Rakuten can exploit without violating the agreement between the two leagues or what action Major League Baseball would take if Rakuten were to receive payment beyond the posting fee.