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Bidding underway for Japanese ace Tanaka

Golden Eagles allow Major League clubs to bid for superstar pitcher

Major League Baseball's pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka came into greater focus on Christmas Day.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, citing the Sponichi website in Japan, reported that Casey Close will serve as Tanaka's agent. Close also represents Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Derek Jeter.

All 30 major league teams were notified that the 30-day period to sign the star 25-year-old right-hander began at 8 a.m. ET Thursday, the Associated Press reported. Clubs have until 5 p.m. on Jan. 24 to attempt to reach an agreement with the ace.

Only the signing team will pay the Rakuten Golden Eagles the $20 million posting fee, with Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News referencing an MLB spokesman in adding that teams don't have to place a formal bid, but have to be willing to pay the fee if they sign Tanaka. All 30 teams can negotiate with Tanaka, per Feinsand, but he doesn't have to meet with every team.

The Japanese right-hander's Nippon Professional Baseball club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, reportedly revealed late Tuesday night that it will make him available to MLB teams through the posting system. Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana announced the decision, according to Hernandez.

Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and led the Golden Eagles to the Japan Series title, is expected to set off a feeding frenzy. The right-hander has also starred in the World Baseball Classic, and he's gone 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA in seven seasons in Japan.

The news of his posting brought an end to a long saga that had taken up much of the offseason and forced interested clubs to wait for a resolution. First, MLB and NPB had to work out an agreement on a new system. Now, with the new rules, posting bids cannot exceed $20 million, which may widen the field of suitors for Tanaka.

Once the new system was agreed upon, there was a question of whether Rakuten would agree to let Tanaka go, since it likely would receive less money in the deal than it would have under the old rules.

Two years ago, Texas won the rights to negotiate with Yu Darvish by posting a bid worth $51.7 million. Without being posted, Tanaka wouldn't become a free agent outside of Japan until after the 2015 season, so the Golden Eagles could have elected to keep him for the upcoming season.

Tanaka is a two-time Sawamura Award winner, which is annually given to the best pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball. Tanaka pitched in the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 World Baseball Classic for his country, and he came back to pitch for Japan again in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Various reports already have speculated that the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Braves, Rangers and D-backs are the frontrunners to obtain Tanaka's services. David Kaplan of CSN Chicago cited a Major League source who said the Cubs would not be outbid for Tanaka, but that convincing Tanaka to come to Chicago would be difficult.

Spencer Fordin, Scott Merkin and Andrew Simon are reporters for