After weeks of speculation and rumors regarding the future of starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese Pacific League have officially decided to post him for bids from teams in Major League Baseball.

Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times was able to translate the announcement from Sankei Sports:

ESPN’s Jim Bowden lists a few teams that will be interested: 

There was uncertainty as to whether Tanaka would get posted because of a new agreement between the JPL and MLB that limits bids to $20 million. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported that the new cap led to uncertainty among Rakuten’s front office because a $20 million bid would be much lower than the posting bids that previous top-tier Japanese pitchers received from MLB teams.

At that point, Rakuten must decide whether to take a $20 million posting fee for Tanaka this year and set off an unprecedented 30-team free-agent frenzy or decline to post him against his wishes—a decision Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana said the team has not yet made.

“I don’t know if $20 million is fair value for this kind of trade,” Rakuten assistant general manager Aki Sasaki said. ” … I don’t know if it’s the right price.”

The difference could have very well been the starting pitcher’s desire to move stateside. The report from Passan said Tanaka was clear in his stance that he wanted to pitch in the United States for the 2014 season, regardless of the posting system.

Now that he’s officially been granted that opportunity, he will likely become the most-coveted player on the free-agent market, which has already been depleted by other signings while teams awaited word on his status.

The interest will be high because of the mind-boggling numbers Tanaka posted last season. The right-hander went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 28 appearances, all but one of which was as a starter.

Of course, it’s impossible to know exactly how those numbers will translate to MLB, especially if he lands in the American League. But given the lack of pitching available, teams will probably be more than willing to take a chance.

LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported at least half of the league is expected to bid on him since only the team that wins the battle for his signature ends up paying the fee:

But at least half the teams in the league are expected to put in a bid because only one team ends up paying the $20 million—the team that signs him. So the wealthy teams like the Dodgers, Cubs and Yankees are equipped to win the sweepstakes. I guess I can’t rule out the Mariners, who have had lucrative sponsorship deals with Japanese companies in the past and would benefit from landing Tanaka.

When you combine the low posting fee, the number of teams searching for more pitching heading into next season and Tanaka’s tremendous numbers, the process has the potential to become very interesting.

Only time will tell where he lands, but he’ll be happy to get his wish of pitching in the United States.


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