Japanese amateur pitcher Junichi Tazawa is shaking things up – last week he asked the 12 Nippon Professional Baseball teams not to draft him. He wants to join an MLB team instead. His decision, coupled with interest from multiple MLB teams, is putting a major strain on MLB-NPB relations.
Peter Abraham of The Journal News had an informative article on the Tazawa situation yesterday. He says Tazawa’s decision is testing an informal agreement that MLB will not sign Japanese prospects. Abraham says the Red Sox, Mets, Braves, and Dodgers have scouted Tazawa. The Tigers, Pirates, Cubs, and Mariners may also be in the mix. The Red Sox are said to be in the lead. There’s no posting free for an unsigned player, though Tazawa may want a big league deal.
The Yankees will pass – GM Brian Cashman told Abraham he will honor the gentleman’s agreement between the two leagues. When the Yanks sent Gene Michael to Japan last week, it was apparently to scout Yu Darvish. Darvish’s availability this winter will hinge on the whims of the Nippon Ham Fighters. No one knows whether the Fighters will cash the 22 year-old in now for a possible $60-80MM posting fee.
NPB directors convened to discuss the Tazawa situation last week, and they’re sending a delegation to the U.S. to meet with MLB. Abraham suggests NPB could strike back if Bud Selig doesn’t step in to stop the pursuit of Japanese players before they are drafted. Abraham speculates Japan could pull out of the World Baseball Classic or even sign an American amateur player as retaliation. Or, as Patrick Newman suggested to me recently, a team like Softbank could jump in and sign Pedro Alvarez or Aaron Crow.