A number of MLB teams are hoping to get a crack at star Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but they may not get the chance this offseason if the Rakuten Golden Eagles' stance holds firm.
According to Ken Belson of The New York Times, the Eagles seem increasingly likely to keep Tanaka this season rather than posting him for MLB teams to bid on. That would be in direct conflict with Tanaka's wishes.
Updates from Friday, Dec. 20
From MLB.com's CJ Nitkowski:
Eagles say report on them not posting Tanaka is false. Still undecided. Official resolution in 3-5 days.— CJ Nitkowski (@CJNitkowski) December 20, 2013
Belson reported the 25-year-old righty said at a news conference Tuesday after a meeting with Rakuten Eagles President Yozo Tachibana: "I informed my team that I would like them to allow me to test my abilities in Major League Baseball next season."
However, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal added this:
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times had more on the situation, explaining that the door isn't completely shut on Tanaka making the move to America:
The Hochi story in which it's written that Tanaka won't be let go should be taken with a grain of salt. ...— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) December 19, 2013
... Rakuten president quoted in story saying they have to talk more and that it might take a little longer to reach a resolution.— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) December 19, 2013
Tanaka told Kyodo News this morning that he hasn't heard back from the team.— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) December 19, 2013
It's likely that Tanaka's team would have let him go under the old posting system, which allowed teams to bid at will. The new posting system has a cap of $20 million, however, which certainly limits the amount of money that Rakuten can make.
Rakuten would only get a fraction of the $51 million it took for the Boston Red Sox to secure Daisuke Matsuzaka or the $51.7 million the Texas Rangers paid for Yu Darvish.
Should Tanaka's Japanese team post him?
With that said, the Eagles risk losing Tanaka for nothing after the upcoming season should they decide to keep him. Belson speculates that they would save money in terms of fan interest by refusing to post him, though.
Rakuten is even reportedly willing to double or triple Tanaka's $4 million salary in order to keep him happy should the team not grant his wish of being posted.
It's easy to see why there is so much interest in Tanaka after his 24-0 campaign. He posted a sparkling 1.27 ERA and 0.94 WHIP as his team won the Japan Series.
According to Miami Marlins utility man Casey McGehee, Tanaka is a special talent who could conceivably get even better, per Mel Antonen of MASN.
McGehee says Tanaka can manipulate his forkball and change speeds with it. Thinks Tanaka will be better in the US than in Japan.— Mel Antonen (@MelAntonen) December 19, 2013
If the Eagles ultimately decide against posting Tanaka, there will be plenty of disappointed teams. The New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels have all shown interest, according to Dayn Perry of CBS Sports.
Tanaka staying in Japan would be a major disappointment for those teams and many others. Look for the market to heat up for the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Matt Garza if and when the Eagles make their decision official.
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