Even with a new posting system in place, the future of pitcher Masahiro Tanaka still hangs in the balance after the Japanese star met Tuesday with his Nippon Professional Baseball team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
The 25-year-old starter, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA to lead the Eagles to the NPB title last year, would be the most sought-after free-agent pitcher on the U.S. market this winter if his team makes him available, and he let the club know Tuesday that he wants that opportunity.
"I informed my team that I would like them to allow me to test my abilities in Major League Baseball next season," Tanaka said after a meeting with Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana, according to The Associated Press.
But it is still up to the team to post him, and it appears the Eagles are reluctant to do that.
"We told him he is very important to us, and we'd like him to stay," Tachibana said in the AP report.
Under the new posting system announced Monday, the fee due a Japanese team losing a player is capped at $20 million. Previously, higher fees were paid for players, such as the Rangers' Yu Darvish ($51.7 million). The window of time a team can post a player is from Nov. 1-Feb. 1.
Tanaka would not be a free agent until 2015, so the club has the right to post him -- or not -- until that time. The Eagles of the Pacific League voted against the new posting agreement, a three-year pact.
If the team does post Tanaka, the pitcher would be eligible to negotiate a contract with any team that offers the top fee, which in this case surely will be the $20 million maximum, presumably made by several Major League teams. A 30-day negotiating window would then begin, and if Tanaka did not sign within that time, he would return to the Golden Eagles and no fee would be collected. Otherwise, he would sign with a Major League team and move his career to the U.S.
A veteran of seven seasons with the Eagles after debuting at age 18, Tanaka has played in the World Baseball Classic twice and pitched in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Tanaka, who also had a 1.27 ERA in 2011 while pitching 14 complete games and six shutouts that year, is 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA in 175 appearances (172 starts) for his career.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnSchlegelMLB.