Masahiro Tanaka Could Get Record Offer From Rakuten

Koji Watanabe

The Cubs, and other MLB teams looking for a big-time starting pitcher, might have to turn their attention away from Masahiro Tanaka, according to one report.

Waiting for Tanaka.

It's not an existential novel, but what major-league teams have been doing, first waiting for the new MLB/NPB posting system to be approved by both parties, and then for Masahiro Tanaka's team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, to post him.

Only now, it looks like Rakuten won't post him, according to this Japanese-language article. I ran it through Google Translate, and the gist of it is: Rakuten is going to offer to make Tanaka the highest-paid player in NPB history, via a contract worth 800 million yen (approximately $7.7 million at current exchange rates). That doesn't seem like much by MLB standards, and it's probably less than half what Tanaka would make on an AAV basis from a major-league team, and here's why that number is significant:

NPB has an unwritten rule that 500 million yen is the highest salary any player can receive, and for an unwritten rule, it’s pretty well enforced.  Also according to yakyubaka.com, only eight NPB players have ever received salaries of 500 million yen or more in a season: Ichiro Suzuki, Kazahiro Sasaki, Hideki Matsui, Norihiro Nakamura, Kenji Johjima, Nobuhiko Matsunaka, Tomoaki Kanemoto and Yu Darvish.  That’s a pretty terrific list of players.  Only Sasaki (650) and Matsui (610) have earned 600 million or more yen in a season.

The Japanese-language article says that Tanaka and Rakuten management are scheduled to meet again on the 20th, tomorrow, and goes on to say that this is not likely to be a meeting to discuss Tanaka's desire to be posted, but instead to talk about the 800 million yen contract offer. According to MLB Trade Rumors:

The hurler nevertheless appears ready to accept whatever decision Rakuten comes to. "If the team tells me, 'We're not going to post you. Please stay,' the professional thing to do is give it your all and get back to pitching," Tanaka told reporters this week. "I'm ready to do that."

This Japan Times article, which was written five days ago, explains why the new posting system could wind up sending fewer Japanese players to MLB.

Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal says:

So who knows what will happen? For now, we still wait. For Tanaka.

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