Would signing Japanese star righthander Masahiro Tanaka be a game-changer for the Cubs? Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 0.943 WHIP for the Rakuten Golden Eagles (love NPB team names!) in 2013. Those are Yu Darvish-comparable numbers, but there surely are no guarantees that Tanaka, who turned 25 November 1, would be as good as Darvish if he came to MLB.
Still, he's interested in coming to play for a major-league team on this side of the Pacific, and as you know, November 1 was also the date the current "posting" system to get NPB players over to MLB before they reach free agency expired.
The two sides are still talking, and two Los Angeles sportswriters tweeted details a couple of days ago:
If multiple teams make max bid on Japanese player, he decides team with which he'll negotiate. If adopted, a bit of help for small markets.— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) December 2, 2013
Sponichi: MLB proposing posting-fee limit for Japanese players. If multiple teams submit max bid, player goes to team with worst record.— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) December 2, 2013
Although the bidding limit is unknown -- I assume it would change each year with the market -- the new system is designed to give small market teams a better chance at landing top players from Japan. NPB has wanted their players to have some input in the process but they will still want to be able to get as much money in return as possible. The only change under the previous proposal called for winning team to pay an average of the top two bids rather than the actual winning bid amount. That gives MLB clubs some protection against a Yu Darvish situation, when the Rangers reportedly bid $20+ million more than any other team. Sounds like that plan is off the table now.
This all sounds pretty complicated, and though some Japanese clubs have done extremely well with posting fees (for Daisuke Matsuzaka and Darvish, specifically), both sides were pretty dissatisfied with the process, which is why we're in the mess we are now.
This Japanese-language article from NHK has some additional information. Iharu Atsushi, identified as someone connected with NPB (it was translated as "secretary", but I'm not sure if that's exactly right), said the talks were "progressing positively", and the article goes on to say that MLB and NPB will be negotiating again by conference call Thursday (December 5).
Finally, since Google Translate is so much fun to play around with, I herewith present a portion of the Japanese-language article as provided by Google Translate. Just for fun, of course.
Since the Major League side is problematic and that the amount of the successful bid is too high, you are in a state of being revoked, posting system, reached an agreement in direct negotiations went person in charge of the Nippon Professional Baseball is to travel to the U.S. late last month did not. In negotiations, discussions to find a plan you paid for 12 teams of professional baseball and 30 teams of Major League have followed.
Switching back to the serious side of this in conclusion, I'd very much like to see the Cubs "all in" on Tanaka. He does appear to be the kind of guy who could come to MLB and be a No. 1 starter.