This coming Monday ought to be a day for rejoicing around Major League Baseball, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the revised posting system for international players will be ratified.

Great! That means Masahiro Tanaka, the 25-year-old who’s been compiling video-game numbers for Japan’s Rakuten Golden Eagles, will finally make the leap to the majors, right?

Although Rakuten‘s decision-makers were noncommittal at MLB‘s winter meetings, ESPN the Magazine‘s Buster Olney passes along a new development that might motivate them to post him after all: 

The subtext here is that the other Nippon Professional Baseball teams are suffering so much from Tanaka‘s right arm that they’d literally pay the Golden Eagles to get rid of him. With filthy splitters that make even Cuban stars look silly, you can understand why he’s been so successful.

Under the previous rules, professional teams overseas were allowed to collect blind bids from MLB suitors.

For example, Japanese stars Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish were posted for $51.1 million and $51.7 million, respectively, and all of that money went directly to their former employers. Then there was a 30-day window during which the player could negotiate his major league contract.

Entering this offseason, the expectation was that the dearth of front-line starting pitching available in free agency and spike in revenue from television contracts would compel contending teams to bid even more on Tanaka.

The problem is they’re not allowed to anymore.

The maximum allowable posting fee will be only $20 million. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! SportsRakuten assistant general manager Aki Sasaki has hinted that he doesn’t see that as much of an incentive—especially with Tanaka under team control through 2015 and bound to generate profit off the field.

President Yozo Tachibana has also issued comments on the subject. As Baseball America‘s Ben Badler translates, “If Tanaka wants to go to MLB, they would like to let him leave.”

It’s essentially the same message, but with a different tone. Tanaka has already established that his “dream” is to pitch against the world’s toughest competition in the U.S. and Tachibana wants to grant his wish…if it makes business sense.

The resolution to this drama will partially hinge on how much money the other 11 NPB teams offer.

Tanaka‘s undefeated season—which earned him the equivalent of a Cy Young Award—led the Golden Eagles to the 2013 Japan Series title. Without their ace, the odds of repeating would obviously be reduced dramatically, thus opening the door a bit wider for everybody else. 

How much are those competitors willing to spend to increase their championship odds?

Aside from upsetting the numerous MLB clubs eager to bid for his services, the pitcher himself might also react poorly to the news that he’s being withheld from advancing his career.

What if Tanaka spends 2014 pouting? And if he fails to replicate those brilliant results, would he still generate much buzz among Rakuten‘s fanbase?

There’s also the risk of his insane workload—30 complete games since 2011 and about eight innings per start—resulting in a serious injury that deters any team from posting $20 million the following offseason.

After weighing all of those factors, the Golden Eagles will likely allow Tanaka to depart, wiping their tears of sorrow with wads of cash.


Ely is a national MLB Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a sportscaster for 90.5 WVUM in Miami. He wants to make sweet, social love with all of you on Twitter.

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