The reports Wednesday regarding the negotiations between Major League Baseball and Nippon Pro Baseball regarding the posting system have turned out to be accurate; the Japan Times reports Thursday that a deal has been reached:
Nippon Professional Baseball and Major League Baseball have reached a basic agreement on a new posting system, sources said Thursday. It is thought that an agreement has been reached after MLB requested a posting fee cap of $20 million. The move will be formalized once the two sides have ironed out the details. "A draft is being prepared and hopefully both MLB and NPB can sign an official decision," said NPB secretary general Atsushi Ihara.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal has some further details:
If multiple clubs willing to pay $20M, Japanese player can negotiate with all of them. Only the signing team will be required to pay $20M.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 5, 2013
Luxury tax will apply only to salary, not posting fee. So, #Yankees would be exempt only from $20M if they signed Tanaka. Not good for them.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 5, 2013
MLB expects Tanaka and others will still be posted. Otherwise, Japanese players might demand earlier free agency. Currently must wait 9 yrs.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 5, 2013
It should be noted that the vote among NPB teams to approve this deal was 11-1. The "one" was Masahiro Tanaka's team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles. You can see why -- two years ago, when Yu Darvish was posted, his team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, received over $50 million in a posting fee from the Texas Rangers. This deal would mean far less money for Japanese teams who post players; that might reduce their incentive to do so. Tanaka has been previously reported to want to go through the posting system, though the Japan Times article says:
Tanaka told Rakuten during contract negotiations in December last year that he hopes in the future to pursue a career in the major leagues. He has not clearly stated that he wants to make the move this off season.
The other thing that the new system accomplishes, if Rosenthal's reports are accurate, is this: if any team can bid the maximum $20 million and not have to actually spend it unless they sign the player, why wouldn't every MLB team do that? You at least give yourself a shot at signing him, and even if you can't necessarily afford the contract, someone like Tanaka would likely be highly desired in trade.
This agreement essentially makes the player something close to an unrestricted free agent. Now, it might not be true that every team would put up the $20 million bid for the top Japanese players who are posted, but then, not every team goes after every single MLB free agent, either.
This will work out well for the player, since he's likely to get money that had previously been allocated by bidding teams to the posting fee. It won't work as well for the team losing him, as they'll get far less than NPB teams received for previous players who were posted.
It's been reported previously that the Cubs were going to go "all in" on Tanaka. I'm all in favor of this. Go for it, Theo.