ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball has terminated its previous posting fee agreement with Japan, according to a source, placing current young Nippon Professional Baseball players like pitcher Masahiro Tanaka in limbo.
A new MLB proposal that would allow Tanaka and other players to be posted this offseason is awaiting the approval of Japanese baseball officials, according to the source, and the sentiment among a growing number of Major League owners is to end the posting system entirely and wait to sign Japanese players when they become full free agents after nine seasons, which is the rule in Japan.
Tanaka, who led the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to a Japan Series championship over the well-established Yomiuri Giants in seven games this year, is the most sought after Japanese pitcher since Yu Darvish signed with the Texas Rangers before the 2012 season.
During this week's General Managers Meetings at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes, there are a number of Japanese media representatives in attendance awaiting word on the fate of Tanaka, who won 24 games without a loss until starting and losing Game 6 of the Japan Series. He came back in Game 7 and pitched a flawless ninth in relief to save the series victory.
"Since MLB canceled the existing posting agreement last year, we've been negotiating with the Japanese to revise the old system," said the source. "As of now, there is no agreement, so players can't be posted. They have a proposal from us they can accept. It's in their court."
Under the former system, teams in Japan's Pacific and Central Leagues could post a player with one to eight years of experience. Clubs in the U.S. would then provide a blind bid to purchase that player. The highest bidder was granted an exclusive window to sign him, and if that came to pass, the Japanese club received the posting bid as the purchase price for the player. If the MLB team couldn't come to terms, the player would return to his originating team, negating the posting bid.
Major League clubs are now balking at the expense of both the posting fee and a contract with the player. In Darvish's case, Texas paid the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters a record $51.7 million posting fee and signed the right-hander to a six-year, $60 million contract.
Prior to the 2007 season, the Boston Red Sox paid the Seibu Lions $51.11 million for the right to sign pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to a six-year, $52 million contract.
In comparison, in 2001, the Seattle Mariners paid what was then a record $13 million posting fee to the Orix BlueWave for the rights to sign Ichiro Suzuki.
Other high-level Japanese signings of players like Hideki Matsui and Koji Uehara came after those players had become full free agents in Japan, and those acquisitions did not involve a posting fee.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.