Junichi Tazawa (田沢純一) held a press conference early today to officially declare his desire to skip the NPB Amateur Draft so that he can go overseas to play in the Majors.
Junichi Tazawa discussing his
desire to play in the Majors
In response to Tazawa's press conference, the 12 teams from the NPB held an "emergency" meeting to discuss the status of the highly regarded amateur righty Junichi Tazawa and confirm if there were teams interested in drafting him. What follows is parts of the press release that was sent to the media:
"The initial rules for amateur player acquisition was created back in 1962 by the Commissioners from the Majors and the NPB. Since then, no amateur players have signed with MLB teams and it is this fact that indicates that this was more than just a gentleman's agreement, but rather an implicit understanding that the Majors would do no such thing.
That a handful of clubs from the Majors is trying to break this gentlement's agreement is truly regrettable."
The press release further mentions that depending on how things turn out over the next few days, the NPB may consider setting up talks between the MLB and NPB Commissioners. The 12 teams intend to meet again on the 19th to discuss the current amateur draft rules and to further dive into the rules that should govern MLB scouts contacting amateur players in Japan.
Nikkei Net is reporting that Hidetoshi Kiyotake (清武英利), the NPB Representative, said that the NPB Commissioner's Office has contacted the MLB and was told that, "The MLB isn't necessarily in agreement with teams trying to sign Japanese amateur players and that they didn't have any intentions of causing problems." The NPB is scheduled to meet with MLB officials in New York on the 16th to discuss the situation further.
And the Mainichi Shinbun pointed out a few interesting things in one of their articles regarding how unfair it would be to allow MLB teams to sign amateur players. Aside from the fact that Japanese teams are only allowed to contact high schoolers and college players prior to the draft under certain circumstances (if they have submitted letters of intent), they simply would not be able to compete against the multi-million dollar contracts MLB teams would be able to spend. And even if money wasn't an issue, unlike the Majors, the NPB has a cap on salaries given to first year players. If my translation is correct, first year contracts can go no higher than roughly a $1M signing bonus (plus another percentage based on yield) and a yearly salary of about $140,000.
I feel very mixed about this issue. On the one hand, I think it would be nice for a Japanese player to get a chance to start his pro career in the Majors. But then when I consider the future of the NPB, then my thinking shifts. The NPB is already losing plenty of quality, star-billing players to the Majors. Losing youth to help fill in those ranks would be a devastating blow to the NPB.