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Masahiro Tanaka Might Not Be Posted, After All

Pitchers and catchers report to MLB spring-training camps in less than two months. Will the Japanese star be among them?

Junko Kimura/Getty Images

Here, have another photo of Masahiro Tanaka -- that's two stories in a row today that have an image of the Japanese righthander, who many of us hope might be in a Cubs uniform when 2014 begins.

Not so fast!

The link is to this Japanese-language article, but there's also this report from the New York Post which says essentially the same thing:

According to a person with knowledge of the Rakuten Golden Eagles’ plans for the coveted right-hander, the earliest Tanaka will be posted is following the 2014 season, which would be his eighth in Nippon Professional Baseball. Players in Japan usually aren’t eligible for free agency until after their ninth year.

Because of the new posting process, Rakuten’s ownership will likely hold onto Japan’s best pitcher for another year. Under the old process, a team could bid unlimited dollars to secure the negotiating rights to a posted Japanese player.

Now, the process has been capped at $20 million. If there are multiple teams tied for the highest bid, the player can negotiate with all of them.

The new system is designed to give more teams a shot at negotiating with Japanese players who are posted, but it gives less money to the team losing such a player, thus less incentive for those teams to let the player go.

As noted above, Tanaka could be posted after 2014, his eighth NPB season -- and the Golden Eagles would have incentive to do it then, because after 2015, his ninth year, he would be an unrestricted free agent and be able to come to MLB without any money going back to Rakuten.

The problem for Rakuten is summed up in this MLB Trade Rumors post:

Of course, the Golden Eagles do not need Tanaka's consent to retain him for another season. However, denying their ace of his wish to come to the United States may not look good to the public and could damage the club's relationship with Tanaka and other players down the line. Last Sunday, Golden Eagles president Yozo Tachibana told reporters that he would likely post Tanaka is he wished to come to MLB.

As always, we await further developments.