How Posting Fee Limit for Japanese Players Helps Level Playing Field in MLB

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How Posting Fee Limit for Japanese Players Helps Level Playing Field in MLB
Koji Watanabe/Getty Images
Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka can only sign with a major league team this offseason if a new posting system is agreed upon.

Major League Baseball and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball may be making progress towards an agreement on a new posting system.

Back in October, negotiations were reportedly coming along, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, and both sides seemed optimistic that a deal would be reached by Nov. 1.

But that never happened.

MLB proposed an amended posting system where a Japanese team would receive a fee equal to the midpoint between the top two bids. However, by the middle of November the league was tired of waiting on Japanese baseball officials to push forward with the initiative, according to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi (via Twitter), and talks hit a snag.

Throughout deliberations, Japanese officials have made it clear they want their players to have a say in the matter. However, at the same time, the teams also want as much money as possible in return for their players before losing them to free agency in NPB.

Under the current posting system, an NPB club with a player who wishes to join the major leagues would accept bids from all interested teams, with negotiating rights going to the highest bidder.

However, the system’s inequality was exposed prior to the 2012 season through the Texas Rangers' pursuit and signing of Yu Darvish.

After Darvish was officially posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters, the Rangers won negotiating rights with a winning bid of $51.7 million, a total that was reportedly $20 million more than the next closest bid.

With 30 days to sign the right-hander, the Rangers waited until minutes before the deadline to sign him to a six-year, $56 million contract. Had the two sides not reached a deal, the all-in posting fee would have been returned to the Rangers.

Basically, it set a dangerous precedent that having deep pockets could potentially buy a top NPB player without any immediate repercussions.

But the Thanksgiving holiday brought good news.

After meeting face-to-face last week before, details have emerged regarding MLB’s latest proposal.

According to Japan’s Sponichi (h/t MLB Trade Rumors), multiple teams would be able to submit a maximum bid for the posted player. In that event, the team with the lowest winning percentage from the previous season would be awarded negotiating rights with the player.

While the maximum bidding limit is yet to be defined, it will presumably reflect the state of the current market so as to encourage the participation of lower-revenue teams and create greater balance league-wide.

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For example, if the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers both made a hypothetical maximum bid of $30 million this offseason for 25-year-old Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka under the proposed posting system, his negotiating rights would go to Houston. In theory, it would also prevent another Darvish-type scenario from unfolding.

Talks between MLB and Japanese officials are both fluid and ongoing, and there will be many details that will be ironed out along the way.

And while an agreement isn’t imminent, there is considerable pressure on both sides to strike a deal sooner rather than later. If they are unable to decide on a new posting system, then Tanaka will have to wait until next offseason to launch his career in the major leagues.

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