On Monday, working in conjunction with Nippon Professional Baseball, Major League Baseball announced major changes to the way clubs will make posting arrangements for incoming Japanese players.
The previous posting agreement was renewable on a year-to-year basis, but both sides were eager to make amenable tweaks. Without a new posting deal, Japanese players under contract would not have been able to come stateside. The NPB requires players to play nine seasons before entering free agency.
Posting is somewhat comparable to the European soccer transfer market. NPB teams may "post" players who request to make a move before they hit free agency, allowing MLB teams to bid for their services. Traditionally, the MLB team that has offered the highest fee to a player's NPB club has received a 30-day window within which to negotiate personal terms. If those terms were not agreed upon within that time frame, no money exchanged hands and the player was consigned to another year in Japan.
The major difference from the soccer transfer system is that MLB and NPB instituted a "blind bid" system. That kept major-market teams from swooping in and topping their smaller-market counterparts at the last minute—in essence, keeping some competitive balance and strategy in the process.
Where the new system changes most is in giving more freedom to the players being bid on. Sources accurately first told Newsday's David Lennon in September that, rather than a player being consigned to his highest bidder, he will get to choose among a few teams that presented the best offers.
Under Major League Baseball's latest announcement, though, the blind bidding process will be eliminated altogether. Instead, the NPB team will set a flat price up to a maximum of $20 million, and any MLB team willing to pay that price will be able to negotiate with the player for a 30-day window. Under the previous agreement, the player had no choice and could only negotiate with one MLB club.
These changes come at a particularly important time for MLB clubs with star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka expected to be posted this winter.
Tanaka, 25, is coming off a season in which he went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA, and especially considering this news, MLB teams will be competing aggressively for his services. The New York Yankees are one of the teams known to be interested, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported in November that they may have been willing to exceed the post the Texas Rangers paid for Yu Darvish, prior to the announcement of the new posting rules.
The posting system has also been beneficial to high-spending MLB teams because the posts do not count toward the luxury tax. While that only matters to a few teams near or beyond $189 million, avoiding those tax costs had made some teams comfortable with pushing their bids to extremes.
With the new agreement in place, the MLB and MLBPA has put a cap on those ever-increasing posting figures, leaving more money on the table for the players themselves and thus forcing teams to allocate more money subject to the luxury-tax threshold in order to outbid other clubs. Tanaka's presence may provide an early glimpse into how this new agreement will affect the process going forward.
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