We learned earlier today that MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball have formally agreed upon modifications to the inter-league posting system. Of course, the most immediate ramifications of that agreement relate to whether and when star Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will be posted by his current club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles. The lack of clarity as to his MLB availability seems to have held up the upper-level starting pitching market. Indeed, as MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth explained yesterday, five of the top ten players still free on the open market are starters.
Here's the latest on Tanaka:
- Tanaka told reporters that he had expressed his desire to pitch in the majors next season in a meeting with team president Yozo Tachibana, Sanspo reports. (Japanese language link; thanks to MLBTR's Aaron Steen for the translation.) However, the team hasn't made a decision yet, the righty said. "I'd like to show what I can do on a new stage," Tanaka said. "[Rakuten] graciously listened to what I had to say."
- A final decision on posting Tanaka could come down as soon as tomorrow, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this evening. Tanaka "is expected to learn his fate Tuesday," according to Hernandez, who reported that club officials were scheduled to meet with the 25-year-old hurler. As Hernandez also explained, an earlier report from Sanspo said that Rakuten will, in fact, post Tanaka. But, as Hernandez notes, that report did not provide any quotes from owner Hiroshi Mikitani or other top club officials. And, of course, the more recent report noted above raises further questions as to whether a resolution is imminent.
- Given the $20MM cap on posting fees provided under the new agreement, a relatively meager sum compared to prior fees paid for top-level arms like Tanaka, it is not unreasonable to consider him a virtual free agent if posted. Indeed, as ESPN's Buster Olney tweets, there is little reason for any team not to throw its hat in the ring since the posting fee is refundable to any club that does not sign him. As Olney explains, that makes for a risk-free chance at signing Tanaka which probably carries some public relations benefits.
- Given his age and essentially open-market availability, if posted, Tanaka would fit the Cubs' plan of building around young players, Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago writes. "We wish there was a free-agent market for young players," team president Theo Epstein said in November. Given Tanaka's situation, just that opportunity could be at hand for Chicago (along with the rest of the league, of course).
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.