Masahiro Tanaka may be getting closer to beginning his major league career.
Major League Baseball and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball are expected to continue negotiations for the posting system this week. According to multiple Japanese media reports, NPB officials are expected to fly to the United States this week to meet with MLB to try to reach a new agreement on the posting system. The speculation from Japan is that an agreement could be reached by the end of the month.
Teams expect Tanaka to be posted this offseason, but the status of the posting agreement remains in limbo. MLB had presented Japanese baseball officials with its proposed new posting system, which the Japanese players’ association was initially hesitant to accept. They accepted a two-year agreement, which was expected to be approved by MPB, but MLB changed course and took the deal off the table at the general managers’ meetings in Orlando on Nov. 14, citing a delayed response as the reason.
Under the altered system MLB reportedly proposed, the MLB team with the highest posting bid on a player would pay the average of the top two bids to the Japanese club as the posting fee. MLB is trying to reduce the posting fees, which would likely decrease the overall amount of money teams would have to spend to sign Japanese players. It would also likely allow MLB to count a greater percentage of what a team pays to acquire a Japanese player against the luxury tax, since only the posting fee itself is not subject to the tax.
Counting the posting fees against the luxury tax would require revising the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is unlikely to happen until the current agreement ends after the 2016 season because the MLB Players’ Association would have to approve any changes.
At some point soon, the sides are expected to reach an agreement, which would clear a path for Tanaka to jump to MLB, if the Rakuten Ealges agree to post him. 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.
Baseball America subscribers can access several game reports on Tanaka’s starts from this season: