MLB Nearing Agreement For New Posting System

A new posting system for Japanese players should be in place soon.

According to reports out of Japan, Nippon Professional Baseball is expected to approve a proposal from Major League Baseball that would set a cap on the posting fee of $20 million. In the event of a tie where multiple teams place the maximum posting bid, the Japanese player would be free to negotiate with any team that posted the maximum bid, according to a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

In other words, MLB was able to accomplish the two goals it has set out from the start mentioned back in August: Control the rising costs of posting fees and shift more money from the NPB team to the Japanese player, enabling MLB to count a greater percentage of the overall payment for a Japanese player against the $189 million luxury tax.

With MLB franchises experiencing soaring revenues and MLB enacting greater restrictions on how teams can spend their money—particularly on both domestic and international amateur talent—the competition and price tags for Japanese players has increased. Since posting fees don’t count against the luxury tax, signing a high-end Japanese professional player through the posting system was one way for a team to count only a fraction of the overall outlay for that player against the tax.

Historically, the posting fee has been roughly equivalent to the amount that went to the player. The Rangers, for example, bid $51.7 million for Yu Darvish in 2011, then signed him to a six-year, $60 million contract. In 2006, the Red Sox posted $51.1 million for Daisuke Matsuzaka, then signed him for six years, $52 million contract. Now instead of a 50/50 split, the majority of the overall money will go to the player rather than his Japanese team.

The immediate impact will be on the Rakuten Eagles and their star righthander Masahiro Tanaka, the top pitcher in Japan and a player several teams believe could immediately become a No. 2 starter in a big league rotation. If the Eagles do post Tanaka, rather than having his market limited to the one team that wins the post for him, Tanaka will surely have several teams post the $20 million required to negotiate with him (only the team that signs Tanaka would have to pay the posting fee), which will drive up his price.

While the Eagles previously intimated that they would be willing to post Tanaka, they were reportedly the lone NPB team to oppose MLB’s proposal. The new system could cloud whether Rakuten will post Tanaka, as his posting fee was expected to exceed $50 million previously, and the Eagles could instead opt to keep Tanaka for the remaining two years of his contract. However, sources still expect Tanaka to be posted once the new system is official.

For a team like the Yankees that has reportedly been trying to stay underneath the luxury tax, Tanaka would have represented an ideal solution to upgrade their rotation. Now, if Rakuten does decide to post Tanaka, he might become a less palatable option for the Yankees.

Major league team officials have also wondered whether the Hiroshima Carp will post their top pitcher, 25-year-old righthander Kenta Maeda. While Maeda doesn’t have the same electric stuff as Tanaka, he has shown plus command at times of a solid arsenal that some teams think would make him a back-end starter in the majors.

Baseball America subscribers can access several game reports from Tanaka’s starts this season.