The top pitcher available on the open market this offseason — and a reported target of the Yankees, among other clubs — isn’t actually on the market yet. He’s Masahiro Tanaka, the latest big name from Japan ready to cross the ocean to the majors.
Tanaka, 25, went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season for the Tohuku Rakuten Golden Eagles. The right-hander has a “devastating” splitter, one major-league executive told the Newark Star-Ledger, and Tanaka is projected as a No. 2 starter.
However, before Major League Baseball rings the bell and lets the bidding start, there is the matter of working out a new arrangement on the posting fee that goes with signing a player from Japan. Before an MLB team can work out a contract, it must pay Nippon Professional Baseball for the rights to the player — a separation fee. For Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka, that fee was a bit over $50 million.
MLB wants to cut down on the posting fee. Instead of just having the top bidder pay its offered number, MLB has proposed that the fee be an average of what the top two bidders put on the table (via Baseball America). Nippon Professional Baseball representatives reportedly will be in the U.S. this week for talks about a fee arrangement.
Another component of an altered posting process would require talks with the players association. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, which runs through 2016, posting fees don’t count toward a club’s luxury tax — which explains why the Yankees, seeking to get under the tax threshold, can still be players in the Tanaka derby.
For now, though, the big-market teams still have a large advantage in pursuing Japanese stars. But it appears the Yankees and others will have to wait a while longer before the market opens on Tanaka.