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Japanese Pitching Star Masahiro Tanaka Now Available to Highest MLB Bidder

The Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball finally decided that star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka would be made available as a free agent in Major League Baseball.

Japanese Pitching Star Masahiro Tanaka Now Available to Highest MLB Bidder
The bidding war for Masahiro Tanaka could involve a majority of MLB teams. Photo courtesy ElCapitanBSC via Creative Commons license.

The free-agent market for pitchers this offseason in Major League Baseball has been slow, but now that Masahiro Tanaka has finally been made available, that could change very soon.

The Rakuten Golden Eagles, the team for whom Tanaka has played for over the past seven seasons in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, finally decided on Tuesday that Tanaka would be made available to teams in MLB who wish to bid for his services.

Under the new posting guidelines established between MLB and the NPB, teams can bid up to a maximum of $20 million for any Japanese player who has been posted by their team. MLB teams then have 30 days to negotiate the best possible contract for the available player. Once the player decides on a team and a contract, that team then pays the bid price to the Japanese team who posted their star player.

For Tanaka, it’s entirely possible that up to half of the teams in MLB could post the $20 million maximum fee for the right to talk to Tanaka. Considering what he did in 2013 and his potential in the majors, that number could even climb higher.

According to David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com, the bidding for Tanaka’s services will feature a crowded list.

Once (and if) Tanaka is officially posted, all MLB teams will be allowed to front the $20 million posting fee. The teams that do so will then bid on Tanaka. Most teams in the league have expressed interest in at least entering the bidding war.

Tanaka was simply incredible for Rakuten in 2013, posting a spotless 24-0 record with a miniscule 1.27 ERA in 27 starts. He struck out 183 batters in 212 innings while walking just 32, and gave up just 168 hits. Over the past three years with Rakuten, Tanaka has posted a 1.44 ERA.

Simply put, he’s been completely dominant, and MLB teams will be chomping at the bit to do everything they can to convince him to sign with their particular team.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports lists the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs as the top four teams who have a shot at landing Tanaka.

It’s also being reported that the Cubs will do everything they can to convince Tanaka to come to the Windy City, and they’re prepared to out-bid every single team in the process.

It’s the second part of that tweet that could be the sticking point—sources have said that Tanaka’s preference is to play on the west coast. With the Dodgers already listed as favorites to land him, the Seattle Mariners could also enter the fold with a strong offer.

The Mariners make sense, considering their ties to Japanese players. Ichiro Suzuki starred for parts of 12 seasons in Seattle, and Hisashi Iwakuma was a top-three pitcher in Cy Young Award balloting this season. Putting Tanaka into a rotation alongside former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez and Iwakuma makes for a scary trio.

ESPN’s Buster Olney believes that the final offer presented to Tanaka will be well above nine figures.

That makes total sense. The Rangers invested over $110 million—including the posting fee—to sign former Japanese star Yu Darvish. When all is said and done, Tanaka’s final price with the posting fee could dwarf that number.

So, MLB teams were given an unexpected Christmas gift in the form of Tanaka. It’s now up to each team that craves his services to put up an offer that convinces him to sign on the dotted line. It will no doubt be an interesting 30 days.   

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