Major League Baseball and Nippon Pro Baseball announced the official signing of their new agreement for "posting" Japanese major leaguers to play in MLB. Via MLB press release, here are the details:
- If an NPB Club wishes to make one of its players available to Major League Clubs, the NPB shall notify the Office of the Commissioner of the NPB player's potential availability and the "release fee" that a Major League Club must pay to the NPB Club in order to secure the NPB player's release. The NPB Club may not set the release fee at an amount higher than $20 million and the fee cannot be changed once it has been set by the NPB Club.
- The Office of the Commissioner shall then "post" the NPB player's availability by notifying all Major League Clubs of the NPB player's availability and the release fee sought by the NPB Club.
- All "postings" of NPB players must be made between November 1st and February 1st.
- Beginning the day after the player is posted, and concluding 30 days later, any Major League Club willing to pay the release fee set by the NPB Club may then negotiate with the player in an attempt to reach an agreement on a contract.
- If a Major League Club is able to reach an agreement on a contract with the posted NPB player, the Major League Club must pay the NPB Club the designated release fee, which will occur in installments, the timing of which depends on the size of the release fee.
- If the posted NPB player fails to reach an agreement with a Major League Club, the release fee is not owed, the NPB player remains under reserve to his NPB Club, and the player may not be posted again until the following November 1st.
- The term of the new posting agreement is three years, continuing from year-to-year thereafter until either the Office of the Commissioner or the NPB gives notice of its intent to terminate the agreement one hundred and eighty days prior to the anniversary of the commencement of the agreement.
The big unanswered question, of course, is whether NPB's Rakuten Golden Eagles will post Masahiro Tanaka, widely considered to be the top pitcher in Japan. Another pitcher who has received less notice, but who also might be successful in MLB, is Kenta Maeda, a 25-year-old righthander who has pitched six seasons for the Hiroshima Carp. The Cubs are supposedly interested in both these pitchers.
It will be interesting to see if Tanaka is posted, whether then multiple teams put forth the maximum $20 million bid. There is literally almost no risk, as only the team that signs him will actually have to pay the money.
This could lead to more Japanese players being posted... or fewer. It's really hard to tell just from this agreement. Often, agreements of this kind lead to unintended consequences, as has the new draft-choice compensation agreement between MLB and the MLBPA.
We'll just have to see. If Tanaka is posted, I hope Theo and Jed go hard after him, as they have hinted.