Monday, Major League Baseball and Nippon Pro Baseball officially announced their new system for posting Japanese players to play in MLB.
This, and the report that Masahiro Tanaka, the top Japanese pitcher, and his team, the Rakuten Eagles, were going to meet and have a news conference afterward, gave Cubs fans who hope the team will go hard after him some hope that the posting process for Tanaka would begin Tuesday.
Unfortunately, it's not happening, not yet, anyway. Here's what Tanaka said at the news conference Tuesday in Japan:
"I informed my team that I would like them to allow me to test my abilities in Major League Baseball next season," Tanaka said at a news conference Tuesday after a meeting with Rakuten Eagles president Yozo Tachibana.
And the response?
Tachibana said Rakuten was trying to persuade its star pitcher to stay with the team for 2014. "We told him he is very important to us and we'd like him to stay," Tachibana said.
Here's a bit more in an English translation of interviews after the news conference. From Tanaka:
Q: How did you communicate your intentions in the meeting? A: For seven years since I joined the team, the Rakuten Eagles have done a lot for me and helped me develop. I expressed my gratitude for that. I told the team that I would like to have the opportunity to take on challenges in a new setting. Q: What was the team’s response? A: They said they want some time before responding. Q: Does that mean they asked you to stay? A: That’s always been the premise in our discussions. I communicated my feelings having taken that into consideration.
From Rakuten president Tachibana:
Q: What did you talk about with Tanaka? A: I started by telling him that the team is very happy with the great job he did for us. I told him we want him to stay, since he is a very important part of our team’s ability to compete. Q: But Tanaka told you he wants to go to MLB. A: It’s not a decision I can make alone on the spot, so I asked him to wait for our response. Q: The new system seems to be an obstacle. A: We still don’t have a view of the entire system. It seems similar to free agency.
Both parties have a point. For Tanaka, here are some of the reasons he wants to come to MLB:
@KevinBassStache He's won a J-Series, PL Pennant, MVP & two Sawamura Awards. Other than career stuff, nothing left for him to achieve here.— Jason Coskrey (@JCoskrey) December 16, 2013
Tachibana is also correct -- the new posting system is somewhat like free agency. There's little risk for any team to put up the maximum bid, because only the team that signs the player actually has to pay the money.
And so, we continue to wait. The linked interview above hints that both Tanaka and the Golden Eagles want to reach a decision as soon as possible. My view? In the end, the Golden Eagles will let Tanaka go, because otherwise, they're likely to have a disgruntled player on their team in 2014 and then they'll lose him to NPB free agency, as he can sign with any other Japanese team after 2014.