Tokyo, Japan (SportsNetwork.com) - In a stunning reversal, standout pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will have a chance to leave his Japanese team to move to the majors next season.
It was during a news conference Wednesday that Rakuten disclosed Tanaka will be made available through the posting system. Rakuten didn't have to release Tanaka, as he has two years left on his deal with the Golden Eagles.
Tanaka compiled a 24-0 record with a 1.27 ERA in 28 games (27 starts) during the 2013 regular season and helped lead Rakuten to the Japan Series title. The 25-year-old has recorded a 99-35 mark with a 2.30 ERA in 175 games (172 starts) since joining Rakuten in 2007. He has 53 complete games, including 18 shutouts, and will be a hot commodity for any major league club who wants to pony up enough money to sign the right-hander.
Under new rules set this offseason, the cap on the posting fee was set at $20 million. Teams need to commit that much money to negotiate with Tanaka for up to 30 days, but clubs who do not secure a deal to get the righty will have their cash refunded. If a contract is worked out, the $20 million will go to Rakuten.
The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly among the clubs who are prepared to get into a high-bidding war for Tanaka. He was reportedly paid $4 million last season, but Tanaka's annual salary will likely get a significant jump once he signs with an MLB team.
The new rules, which are somewhat similar to how European soccer players transfer teams, were put in place to avoid what happened when the Texas Rangers signed pitcher Yu Darvish away from the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Darvish had a posting fee of $51.7 million and then the Rangers signed the pitcher to a six-year, $60 million contract. Prior to the 2007 season, the Red Sox got Daisuke Matsuzaka for a $51 million posting fee from the Seibu Lions and then inked the Japanese hurler to a six-year, $52 million pact.
Before the $20 million posting limit took effect, the MLB team that offered, on a blind bid, the highest posting fee could negotiate for 30 days with a specific club. If a deal couldn't be reached by the deadline, the player would remain in Japan for another season.
Instead of one team negotiating with the player under the former system, all clubs that pay the posting fee, this one of $20 million for Tanaka, can try to work out a contract.