Despite posting system changes, Tanaka remains best pitching option for Yankees

More hot air about Robinson Cano
Staff Notes: Tuck, Hillman, Quade
(Adam Pretty/Getty)
(Adam Pretty/Getty)

At some point very soon, MLB and NPB are expected to finalize a new posting agreement allowing Japanese players to come across the pond prior to qualifying for international free agency. Reports indicate the maximum allowable bid will be $20M, and any team who bids the max will be allowed to negotiate with the player. It’s a really crummy deal for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who were surely expecting $50M+ for ace right-hander Masahiro Tanaka this winter.

The new system essentially creates true free agency with a $20M tax. Only the team who signs the player has to pay the posting fee, so there’s really no reason for any team not to submit a max bid for a player like Tanaka. There’s always a chance he shows up to negotiations and says “You know, I’ve always wanted to pitch in Denver” or something like that. For small market teams who can’t afford a player like Tanaka, such as the Rays or Padres or Athletics, there is some value in simply throwing your hat in the ring and making things slightly more difficult for your rivals.

For the Yankees, the new system makes Tanaka less desirable from a financial standpoint. That goes for all big market teams, really. The posting fee does not count against the luxury tax, so New York could have submitted a huge bid, then signed Tanaka to a below market contract (which does count against the luxury tax) because they had exclusive negotiating rights. The setup was great even if the Yankees weren’t trying to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold. Now the posting fee will be relatively small and the contract much larger because the player will be on the open market.

As far as the luxury tax goes, the new system does hurt the Yankees. That said, Tanaka remains the best pitcher available this winter, at least in some ways. If you’re looking to maximize 2014 impact, guys like Hiroki Kuroda and Bartolo Colon and Matt Garza are probably better bets. That first year always seems to be something of an adjustment period for Japanese hurlers. Long-term, the just-turned-25-year-old Tanaka seems like a better investment than the 30-year-old Garza and the soon-to-be 30-year-old (and spectacularly inconsistent) Ubaldo Jimenez, assuming he’s as good as everyone says he is. Plus he won’t cost a draft pick (Garza won’t, Ubaldo will).

The Yankees were expected to make a very hard push for Tanaka before the posting system changes, so they obviously like him and think he can handle the transition into the AL East and a tiny home ballpark. The favorable contract and luxury tax system really made him a perfect fit. Does the new system change that? It doesn’t change Tanaka as a pitcher, it just means he’ll be more expensive if they go over the luxury tax threshold. The new system figures to actually lower the total cost — $70M posting fee plus $50M contract under the old system vs. $20M posting fee plus $80M contract under the new system, sound about right? — it just gives the majority of the money to the player rather than his former team in Japan.

The Dodgers, Cubs, Blue Jays, Rangers, Angels, and Mariners were expected to be in on Tanaka before the posting system changes and I assume they will remain serious bidders. I’m sure teams like the Orioles and Diamondbacks will submit max bids, but when push comes to shove, they don’t stand much of a chance when it comes to offering a competitive contract. Wooing Tanaka will not be easy for the Yankees even if they throw a ton of money at him. I think the Dodgers are a very real threat because, in addition to all their money, there’s a big Japanese community in Los Angeles and the travel back to Japan is way easier. Same goes for Seattle. If Tanaka is all about the money and will go to whichever team offers the most, the Yankees are in better shape to land him. They have every reason to overpay for guys right now.

Under the old posting system, Tanaka was a near perfect fit for New York. He was luxury tax friendly and, more importantly, they can really use a high-end 25-year-old starter. The plan to get under the luxury tax threshold was predicated on a young rotation built around Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, and Manny Banuelos, but that hasn’t materialized for many reasons. Under the new posting system, Tanaka remains just as good a fit on the field but won’t come with the same luxury tax friendly cost. He is still the best available pitcher on the market and the Yankees should still make a very strong push to land him, it’ll just be much more difficult now.

Update: Jerry Crasnick reports Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana said the team may simply hold onto Tanaka rather than pawn him off for $20M. “We have an obligation to explain to our stakeholders whether it’s fair. There’s a possibility we won’t take the next step,” he said. They could hold onto him for a year and post him next year if the posting agreement changes again.

More hot air about Robinson Cano
Staff Notes: Tuck, Hillman, Quade
  • Griffey’s Grotesquely Swollen Jaw
    • ProjectNeo

      Yea, I don’t think the Eagles will post him this year. They stand to make more then $20 million if they can get another championship out of him this year then post him before the last year of his contract.

    • Vincent Vega

      At this point I think the better option is Garza.

      • Chris H

        I still like Jimenez on a 3 year deal better than Garza, though Tanaka not being posted might raise that year total.

  • Kvothe

    Rakuten doesn’t have much of an incentive to post him now. They can post him down the road and probably still get the max posting fee of 20m if he keeps it up. Might as well keep him for now.

    • mustang

      “IF he keeps it up.”

      But “IF” he doesn’t or gets hurt they are out 20 million, but still can see why they wouldn’t post him now.

    • Joe R

      I believe he can be a clear cut FA for any team (NPB,MLB,etc..) in 2015.

      • Kvothe

        I was under the impression that Rakuten still had his rights for at least 2 more years, so they could at the least make another championship run next year, sell more Tanaka merchandise, whatever, and then post him again and still probably get 20m.

  • B-Rando

    I some what disagree that the new posting system is generally a bad thing for the Yankees. Before- to ensure a VERY good chance at landing a player, you had to post a huge number. It was like a game of poker, without knowing what the other teams were bidding, you could end up overpaying by a stupid amount.

    Now as a free agent, you have a chance to talk to every potential Japanese star just by throwing in a bid. Now you have the chance to market your team, and showcase why you are the best fit. At the end of the day who cares which bucket the money of the contract ends up in, the player will probably get the same amount (if not less overall).

    • mustang


  • LK

    I like Keith Law’s idea where teams just bid on the player and a percentage of the total contract goes to the Japanese team.

    I always thought 189 was ill-conceived, and it appears the Yankees were prepared to drop it before this decision, but I think this has to be the nail in the coffin. If there’s no SP available at a below-market price (from a luxury tax perspective), there’s simply no way to field a contending team without exceeding the limit.

    • TWTR

      Law stole my idea!

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Law thinks developing from within is important?

        • TWTR

          It’s probably responsible for most of his net worth.

  • Petey Mac

    I cannot fucking wait for the Yankees to blow past this stupid $189 million luxury tax bullshit so it stops coming up.

    • I’m One

      I don’t care if they blow through the $189m celery cap or not, provided they re-sign Cano, sign Kuroda, sign Tanaka and get a good late-inning reliever. Someone like Reynolds and maybe even Beltran would be nice too. If they can do that and stay under $189m, I’m absolutely fine with that.

      Obviously my point is I don’t care about what limits they do or don’t put in place as long as they field a team capable of going deep into the playoffs.

    • Mike

      I agree. We’re only signing free agents who should’ve been ours to begin with. There’s no reason we should be punished for it.

    • Mr. Roth

      I couldn’t agree more. I’m so tired of reading all these pretentious assholes talk like they’re the next CFO of the Yankees.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    already said this in the other thread: because of the 20 million cap there’s no need for Japanese teams to post their star players anymore. Keeping them will be much more valuable than the posting fee. Massive fail by MLB to propose this new biding system imo.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      The Japanese teams agreed to it.

      • Bavarian Yankee

        yeah, that’s propably why they agreed to it. Now it’s easier for them to keep their stars because they won’t get fair value in return and won’t even consider posting their star players.

        the new posting system is a win for NPB.

        •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

          I don’t see it that way. When the guy becomes a FA, he leaves, and they get nothing. Posting them while they’re still under contract is the one way to get a big return on a player like Tanaka.

          • Kvothe

            They can wait to post them until their last year or two of control. Whereas Tanaka, as young as he is right now, may have been worth 70m or so under the old posting system, he’s worth a max of 20m now. So, what incentive does Rakuten have to post him now? If they use up as much of their control over him as possible and then post him before his final year of control, they’ll likely end up with 20m, still.

            •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

              He can get hurt. His performance can decline. His value can decline. Right now, his value is as high as it can be. A guaranteed max bid of $20M. I’m just not sure what these teams make and how much $20M is to them. For some businesses, that’s still a ton of cash. For others, like the Yankees, it’s not so much.

              • Bavarian Yankee

                I don’t know how to describe it and I’m sure most people that aren’t familiar with Japanese baseball will not get this.

                Money isn’t that important in Japanese baseball. They basically have a salary cap but then not really. I mean they have a salary cap but it doesn’t exist in the rules. You can offer players what you want, but because of the “unwritten” rule a player isn’t allowed to earn more than 500 million yen (around 5 million $). There have been a few exceptions though like Matsui and Ichiro. Also, foreign players earn way less than Japanese players.

                Money really isn’t a big factor in Japanese baseball. It’s more about pride. Making money isn’t a big factor for Japanese teams because they don’t need it. They have money btw, they just don’t (have to) spend it because the players don’t earn that much compared to the US and you could almost predict the precise career income of a player if you would know how long he decides to play.

                Now posting fees (and leaving the team/country) are a completely different thing. Japanese teams don’t post their players because they need the money. Japanese teams want to keep their players but in respect to their players they allow them to leave IF they get what they feel is a respecable amount of money to show respect to the Japanese team. It’s not really about the amount of money but more about the respect that amount of money represents. Pride is a BIG factor in Japanese baseball. Japanese teams won’t care that the maximum allowed bid now is 20 million $. They point at the 50 million generated by Darvish and say 20 million is not a respectable amount. Accepting 20 million would – in a way – show up the Japanese team.

                I know it’s hard to describe.

                Tanaka might be a different case though. His team basically promised him that he’ll be posted because they couldn’t know about the new maximum bid a few months ago. Remember the Japanese pride thing? They almost have to post him no matter what, otherwise they’d put themselves to shame.

                • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

                  I wish you had sold the idea for your comment as a guest blog post and made it three times as long with a few other examples and data points. You did a great job explaining it.

                  • Mr. Roth


          • Bavarian Yankee

            well I don’t think 20 million is a “big return” when it comes to players like Tanaka. Easy decision for his team to keep him and just let him walk when he’s a FA. Also, there have been enough Japanese stars that stayed in the NPB when they had the chance to go to the US, so it’s far from given to say they’ll leave for sure once they’re FAs.

            •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

              “Also, there have been enough Japanese stars that stayed in the NPB when they had the chance to go to the US, so it’s far from given to say they’ll leave for sure once they’re FAs.”

              Name them. Recent ones. “Stars” that MLB teams want.

              Honestly, I’ve been wondering about the $20M though. We know it’s small compared to the posting fees that they’ve received before and were expected to continue to receive, but that isn’t necessarily important. How much revenue to these Japanese teams generate? Is $20M significant when compared to that? That’s what would be important to them.

              • Bavarian Yankee

                Shinnosuke Abe, power hitting catcher, one of the very best hitters and by far the best catcher in Japan
                Toshiya Sugiuchi, one of the very best pitchers in Japan.

                I can look up more if you want, those 2 came to my mind immediately and signed new contract in Japan during the past 2-3 years when they could’ve signed in the US too.

          • Robinson Tilapia


    • mustang

      “Massive fail by MLB to propose this new biding system imo.”

      Maybe not:

      1- Keeps posting fee down for all MLB teams.
      2- Less competition for MLB free agents making MLBPA happy.
      3- Japanese league probably hold on to their stars a bit longer.
      4- Low market teams get a shot and more $$$ of the tax on the bigger contracts.

      • mustang

        The only ones that really get hurt are the big market teams near, at or over the tax or trying to get under the tax.

        Hummmmmmm I wonder who that is.

      • Bavarian Yankee

        “3- Japanese league probably hold on to their stars a bit longer.”

        and that’s good for MLB in what way? Imo MLB should try to get NPB’s stars to the US as soon as possible. The 20 million cap is basically doing the opposite.

        • mustang

          Its not, but this is a negotiations meaning that they have to give the other side something.

          NPB has always feared a MLB run on their stars this slow it down a bit.

          • mustang

            In the end MLB got lower posting fees for their teams, less competition for their players and more of a completive balance for low market teams.

            Plus fucking the Yankees over.

            for MLB

            • Barney G

              Your points are well taken and really objective. The only problem here is that MLB is making it less likely that big-time international talent comes over. And that is a big problem.

              • Barney G

                A bigger problem than MLBPA and small-market concerns

              • mustang

                I don’t think MLB see that as a problem because at the end MLB is the “Big Stage”

                The biggest players want to come to MLB to play if they don’t so be it they still own the “Big Stage”

                • Barney G

                  I get it…but they’re wrong

          • Bavarian Yankee

            well, that’s true. BUT they basically had an agreement a few weeks ago based on the old posting system. Why on earth did MLB reject that one AFTER NPB already agreed to it? If MLB’s only intention is to screw big market teams then I honestly don’t know what to say.
            Right now every team will max their bid for every half decent player. Japanese teams will post their average to borderline stars, get tons of money and just keep their truly elite players until they’re FAs or 1 year away from being a FA.

            • Bavarian Yankee

              *average players and borderline stars

            • mustang

              “well, that’s true. BUT they basically had an agreement a few weeks ago based on the old posting system. Why on earth did MLB reject that one AFTER NPB already agreed to it?”

              Because the small market team bitched.

              “If MLB’s only intention is to screw big market teams then I honestly don’t know what to say.”
              They only truly screw those big market teams near, at or over the tax or trying to get under the tax that maybe like 3 teams.

              “Right now every team will max their bid for every half decent player. Japanese teams will post their average to borderline stars, get tons of money and just keep their truly elite players until they’re FAs or 1 year away from being a FA.”


  • Need Pitching & Hitting

    I suspect he’ll command much more than an $80M contract.

    • Bavarian Yankee

      yeah, somebody will offer 100+, probably the Mariners.

      • Robinson Sock-Eyed Salmon

        Jack Z just called and offered me 200K.

  • HectorLopez

    Do you even understand the “luxury tax bullshit”, right now the Yankees pay 50 cents on every dollar above 189. For example if they spend 239 in salary and benefits it actually costs them 264. By resetting the number this (1) year in 2015 they can spend 250 in salary and it would cost them 262. so for you Auburn grads you can spend 11 million more but the total cost would be 2 million less.
    I would rather try to get to 189 (with Ajuice suspended for 162 games), then to just throw good money after bad on these c7 and 8 year contracts. Just my opinion!

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      Then when they miss the playoffs again in 2014, they lose more money than they save.

      • mustang


        Not winning and/or not fielding a championship caliber team is worse then:

        the 7th and 8th DEADTH YEARS or the luxury tax.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      Also, to spend $250M in salary, that would require signing the types of players that command these 7 and 8 year contracts.
      You’d just be delaying that by a year.

    • Long-Past-His-Day-Rod

      Auburn grads?

      Do I detect a butthurt Alabama fan?

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        Yeah but that’s probably just me…

        • Long-Past-His-Day-Rod

          Hey, it was a great game and a fluke loss, painful for sure if you’re a fan but as someone with no rooting interest I enjoyed watching it.

          Also, the joke’s on me in the end because I’m a UConn alum and our “football team” can barely tell which endzone is their own.

  • Al

    Bud Selig, You are an idiot !

  • Brian

    How bout McCann’s wife?!

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Is she under contract with a NPB team? If yes, they can post her for up to $20m just like Tanaka.

      • Mr. Roth


        Almost sprayed my soda out of my nose.

    • TWTR

      Big hair!

      I loved that McCann talked about winning “multiple championships.” Most players just say they want to win “a championship.”

  • Vern Sneaker

    Doesn’t matter to me how much they spend, it’s not my $$. Sure the contracts are sometimes financially dumb re a player’s value over time, but all I care about is winning. I love the Ellsbury signing. Bring on Kuroda, Cano, give Beltran a third year, spend spend spend.
    I’m not worried about what happens down the road, I always assume that when the signings restrict things later that the Yankees will spend their way out of that, too.

    • fin

      I’m with you. The only reason I concerned myself at all with contracts was the $189. IF that’s out the window, I couldnt care less how much the Yankees pay to put a contender on the field.

  • TheEvilUmpire

    I wonder if anyone threw out the idea of a variable maximum bid based on something like the player’s career statistics or career NPB earnings? I feel that Rakutan has a legitimate beef here, a Masahiro Tanaka should be worth more than a Kei Igawa when posted.

  • Camilo

    Do Levine’s sideburns look even higher than usual?

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      That dude’s hair is just atrocious.

      • RetroRob

        Yeah, really, whiskey, tango, foxtrot. I understand the “no sideburn” look, yet the barber gouged out the hair upwards. It’s like an inverse sideburn. He needs to keep that mop tightly cropped.

    • hey now

      My guess is that he’s trying to get cast as Spiderman’s next arch-nemesis.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    On second thought, go fuck yourself, Jack Z.

    Seriously though, agreed here, even understanding that Tanaka does carry some risk with him.

    The reasons for the celery cap are dwindling.

  • fin

    I’m all for the posting system. Its more fair to the player. The team posting him got more money than the player himself. Cant believe 2 corporations got together and the deal they came up with works best for the employee.

  • RetroRob

    The change to the posting system might not help the Yankees as much this year, but it may in future seasons. It plays to their strength: money. They no longer need to figure out the highest bid. If it’s a top player, they know their “loss” is limited to $20M and then they can negotiate with the player, who most likely is going to be attracted to the Yankee brand. The Dodgers can play that game too and slightly better because of their location, but overall this system is a plus for the Yankees.

    That said, will the truly top players be posted for just $20M? We’ll find out shortly with Tanaka.

  • hey now

    There’s no reason Rakuten should post Tanaka given the inequitable return they’d receive.

    Our pitching is going to be bad next year. Someone help me off the ledge, here.

    • Preston

      I think in the end they’ll still post him. He wants to go, 20 MM is still a lot of money, and they only have one more season to post him before he can leave anyways. You can either post him and take the 20MM, or keep him another year and risk injury and getting nothing for him. Even if they don’t post him the best pitcher available for 2014 is Hiroki Kuroda, and he’s likely coming back. Other than that we could pursue Garza, Santana, Jiminez and Feldman or possibly a lower end guy like Maholm. CC is very likely to bounce back, not to ace level but probably solid two. Nova is young and talented. Kuroda is likely to be a very good pitcher again. Pineda has plenty of upside. Phelps, Warren, Nuno all look to be solid 5’s. Banuelos, Ramirez and Marshall could be viable options at some point.
      CC, Nova and Kuroda look like a good front three. Add in a FA and then throw the rest of them agaisnt the wall and see what sticks and we’ll have a pretty good rotation. It’s not like you can actually have certainty in the rotation, because all pitchers are risks of injury and unproductiveness anyways.

  • Grover

    The Dodgers become the clear cut favorites now as they have the money, won their division, have a huge Japanese community and are much closer to home. Maybe the Dodgers will leave Cano alone and eat most of Beckett’s deal and trade him to the Yankees.

    • Barney G

      please leave

    • HulkHeyman

      I’d pay them to keep Beckett.

  • Dr. Grenaldine

    Isn’t Kuroda like the only Asian pitcher to last more than two decent seasons in the majors? Nomo might be up there too but not that could be it. All the others seem to either fade after year one/two or be Kei Igawa.

    • Kvothe

      Let’s see how Darvish does in his third season, hm?

    • hey now

      Darvish already has almost a 10 WAR in just two years, and he’s only 26.

    • HulkHeyman

      One more good season out of Darvish and you’ll have to add him to your list.

    • hogsmog

      I think scouts have also gotten better at recognizing transferable talent. We understand by now that’power’ pitchers who blow NPB hitters away with straight mid-90s fastballs (ie Irabu, Igawa) aren’t worth bringing over.

    • Mikhel

      Kazuhiro Sasaki, Ohka had a few good years, Okajima, Saito, Otsuka, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Uehara, Tazawa… there were a few more that were serviceable and about league average.

  • Baked McBride

    Randy Levine looks like my neighbor’s Labradoodle

  • nycsportzfan

    I just hope Pineda is in great shape and feeling healthy by spring training. Hes still very young and he and Nova got a chance to be a special 1-2 punch. Consistency for Nova and health for Pineda are only things that must change with them. God we’ll be looking so good if they pitch to there max ability consistently.

    • fin

      That and a CC bounce back. Cant have the same CC from last year, or the Yankees will be in dire trouble. I’m hoping to see really fat CC back on the mound. That slimmer CC sucks.

  • Raja Haja
  • Nathan

    Losing out on Darvish, I thought we had a good chance to get Tanaka. There goes that…I don’t get what MLB gains for making it $20M.

  • D

    Hold up hold up HOLD UP.

    Just because the posting fee is only $20M doesn’t mean Tanaka is automatically getting more money. The posting fee is $20M not $50M so he can ask for $30M more for $90M total since he’d get at least the $60M Yu Darvish signed with Texas for? Nah ah and the Yanks would be FOOLS to guarantee a guy who has never thrown a single pitch in MLB $90M / almost $100M. $60M is already pushing it. Turning that first number upside down would be fucking ridiculous. 6 years x $10.2M a year = $61M a mil more than what Darvish signed for is more than fair as that’s a record amount for a Japanese player.

    The Yankees should not offer Tanaka more than six years and $61M If someone wants to sign him for more, they can go ahead, I doubt anyone will go higher than the 6 and $60M the Yanks offer. Boston just won a World Series and have a solid rotation of Lester, Bucholz, Lackey, Peavy, and Doubront – why spend $80M total for a pitcher? Matsuzaka was worth his money for only the first two years of his six year overall disastrous contract with them. Detroit traded Fielder and Fister to clear salary to lock up Scherzer. Their current rotation is Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez, Porcello, and my guess a farm system kid or a veteran on a one year cheap base salary deal. The Angels aren’t giving a new player $90M after the Pujols and Hamilton disaster and I’d imagine Jerid Weaver would bark about having money tacked onto his less than $90M contract.

    The Yanks set the price now – see Seattle saying no to Cano now after all the Yankee-hating writers like Wally Matthews who prayed he’d have interest from other teams besides the Yankees reported that Seattle was a frontrunner for Cano.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      Darvish could only negotiate with one team. His contract was well below market value as a result. Record amount for a Japanese player is completely irrelevant because this contract will be signed in a completely different system. The Rangers paid over $100M total for Darvish. The Red Sox paid about that for Dice-K. That means those teams thought those players were worth $100M+ investments.
      Tanaka won’t have the negotiate with only one team restriction. He’ll get essentially a true market value contract, which will likely be considerably more than 6/$60M. If Darvish or Dice-K came over in the new system, they also would have commanded much bigger contracts than the ones they signed.
      As for teams willing to exceed that price – just some guesses – Yankees, Cubs, Mariners, Rangers, Dodgers, maybe Orioles, etc.

  • Wayne

    Garza is trouble if you think of his elbow problems. It’s not worth it. Wonder what starting pitcher they could get if they trade Gary Sanchez? Who else would they give up in their minors for a starting pitcher thàt could be a big innings eater.

  • Billy

    Why is it such a given that Tanaka is better than any veteran MLB pitcher? No matter what scouting says he’s still an unknown. For every Yu there’s Matzusaka. I feel under this new system there’s more risk involved with a larger contract to an unproven player…

  • Wayne

    Tanaka won’t be available we are going to make a trade we have to especially the way Hal thinks! Unfortunately I think he will have us trade Bryan Mitchell and Jose Ramirez away for a starter who is close to turning 35 but could be innings eater. If you add Gary Sanchez to that package that could get you a Cliff Lee. Throw in Rafael De Paula and Philly may think they could turn him into something like a dominant closer type player you never know I think Philly would bite.