You might wish to keep three things in mind as you read this article. I try to limit my usage of some terms due to a lack of my ability to grasp any useful definition of the term. I'm not a huge fan of blaming one specific individual for an action regularly undertaken similarly by a large percentage of the people in the subset they're usually associated with. And, for whatever reasons, I haven't taken to Korean or Japanese pro baseball. Combining those three, in a COVID-impacted off-season, MLB owners have largely and apparently disregarded a reasonable selection of posted international talent, for whatever reason.
I haven't been a fan of the term "tanking" since its revival in the 2010s. Very few people have come up with a more specific definition than "y'know, tanking". I often talk about prioritizing future wins over current wins. like, for example, the Cubs did in the mid-1970s when trading Billy Williams (for Manny Trillo) or Ferguson Jenkins (for Bill Madlock). Some trades like that cash, and others don't. With the Cubs and Astros in the past decade, what was new was the extent of the willingness to be bad, and the effective use of developing talent to reverse fortunes. And that it worked.
Importing players through the posting system for the Japanese and Korean major leagues isn't new. The Cubs rode the strategy late in the Jim Hendry years bringing over Kosuke Fukudome. Current Cubs starting pitcher Yu Darvish chose the Texas Rangers under the posting rules at the time. Other Japanese stars such as Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Kenta Maeda also traversed the process. This cycle, Tomoyuki Sugano, Kohei Arihara, Ha-Seong Kim, and Sung-Bum Na have all been posted. It seemed as if over the course of two or three weeks, a new name popped up every four or five days.
For whatever reason or reasons, nobody jumped on any of them, until Christmas Day:
Rangers in agreement with Japanese right-hander Kohei Arihara, source tells The Athletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 26, 2020
But why is the market slow on the others? Is it executives having tight spending limits for 2021? Owners discouraging such moves? Collusion? A slow-moving market? Disrespect of the players’ games? I read through the early off-season how each of the main names would have been upgrades for numerous teams.
Fans enjoy tossing shade at their owner. In this market, internationally posted player interest seems to range from lukewarm to tepid. The Cubs prioritized Matt Duffy on a minor-league deal over the generally well-respected infielder Kim. Have we reached the point where most owners/execs would rather sink-or-swim with their own talent than upgrade? Is "wealth retention over wins" the new MLB owner mantra? Or is it even that new? It doesn't appear Tom Ricketts is the only owner unwilling to spend in the posting system to upgrade without losing talent. If this is the new protocol, winning the draft, the international signing portion (that now runs January 15 through December 15), and player development contests are even more important/under-reported.
It could be the available talent signs soon. Or, most owners might be very unwilling to pay posting fees this off-season. If it is the latter, it isn't simply a Cubs problem. Kim is drawing some interest as his deadline nears:
So is Sugano:
The White Sox plan to give Cuban outfielder Yoelki Cespedes somewhere near $2 million in about three weeks, but that won't involve giving another team a posting fee:
Updates on some notable Cuban players still on the market:— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) December 23, 2020
OF Yoelki Cespedes, 23, has a deal with the White Sox for between $2.0 and $2.2 million, according to a source. He’s set to sign Jan 15, 2021, the first day of the next signing period. He’s the younger brother of Yoenis.
The posting rules have adjusted a few times through the years. If owners (as a collective group, or as individuals) would rather lose games than invest to improve, the fine print won't matter. Whether it's tanking or not.