11:47am: Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana told reporters in Sendai today that Tanaka could still be posted, as they've yet to make a decision on the matter and discussions are ongoing, according to a report from Sponichi (Japanese link).
7:15am: The Rakuten Golden Eagles appear to be settling on not posting Masahiro Tanaka and plan to offer him a contract with a record annual salary of 800MM yen, or around $7.7MM, Sports Hochi reports. Tanaka said in a press conference this week that he had communicated his desire to pitch in the U.S. in 2014 to Rakuten. However, it appears that the maximum $20MM posting fee agreed to by MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball negotiators under the new posting system — a drastic reduction from what Rakuten was expected to receive under the old arrangement — is giving club ownership considerable pause.
The 800MM yen ($7.7MM) offer would double Tanaka's current salary and make him the highest-paid pitcher in NPB history. However, it's much less than what he was likely to get from an MLB club. One GM recently told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that Tanaka was certain to receive a deal worth more than $100MM if posted. The hurler nevertheless appears ready to accept whatever decision Rakuten comes to. "If the team tells me, 'We're not going to post you. Please stay,' the professional thing to do is give it your all and get back to pitching," Tanaka told reporters this week. "I'm ready to do that."
The starting pitching market appears to be waiting for a resolution on the Tanaka issue, as Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez have all remained on the board while top bats have signed. It's difficult to say where the market heads if Tanaka isn't posted. While competition for pitchers like Santana and Garza would intensify, Tanaka has the potential to drive up their prices further still, as many see him as a $100MM pitcher. Santana's representatives at Proformance are also known to be seeking a $100MM deal for their client. If Tanaka received a contract of that size, the agency could argue that Santana, who's already shown the ability to be an impact starter in the majors, has earned a similar deal.
Tanaka, 25, had a 1.27 ERA in 212 innings this season in Japan and owns a lifetime 2.30 ERA over seven seasons. Teams connected with him recently include the Diamondbacks, the Cubs, the Yankees and the Rangers.