Top Japanese baseball officials are scheduled to fly to New York this week to try to finalize a new posting system, which would end the logjam that has delayed star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka's availability to MLB teams and potentially also stir some movement among the better MLB free-agent pitchers in what's been a mostly dormant starters' market.
There is renewed hope for a posting agreement after deals fell though in late October and again about 10 days ago, though there is no guarantee a deal will be struck. Representatives from the 12 teams of the Nippon Baseball League reportedly re-started their own meetings last Monday, according to the Japan Times.
It was also reported that the Japanese officials were moving back toward a deal similar to the previous one whereby interested teams place blind bids. The team with the highest bid is then awarded an exclusive negotiating window with the player.
There is serious interest in the process this time as the right-hander Tanaka is considered the best pitcher who could be up for grabs among MLB teams. Estimates for a winning posting bid have ranged as high as $75 million, or more, which would be a record. The Rangers won the posting war two years ago for Yu Darvish with a record $51.7-million bid and $60-million salary, and acquired themselves an ace.
Tanaka has been compared frequently to Darvish, and while most scouts give Darvish a slight nod in terms of talent and stuff, Tanaka is said to have incomparable mound presence and poise for a pitcher his age. He is considered better than the top free-agent pitchers, who include Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Tanaka is expected to be pursued by the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, possibly the Giants and Rangers, as well as several others, though the expected presence of the Yankees and Dodgers could scare off some teams. The Yankees have been considered the favorite since their big goal this winter, beyond gathering a plethora of new talent, is to stay below the $189-million luxury-tax threshold, which would re-set their tax at a lowly 17 percent, and the posting fee hasn't in the past been counted toward the luxury tax.