Mike already posted an article over from ESPN, so I thought I'd follow it up with a report from a Japanese news site.
Sankei News is reporting that Junichi Tazawa (田沢純一) will most likely skip the Amateur Draft to sign with a team in the Majors. Even if he's picked during the draft, Tazawa will most likely forego all negotiations.
After a meeting between the JABA (Japan Amateur Baseball Association), the JUBF (All Japan University Baseball Federation), the JHBF (Japan High School Baseball Federation) and the NPB on the 12th, Hidetoshi Kiyotaki (清武英利), Team Rep for the Yomiuri Giants, said, "Top draft candidates going straight to the Majors has always been a concern, and it's something we've always wanted to hold more discussions on. But of course something like this happens before we get around to doing that. I suppose we need to sit down and think things through again. 'Freedom to pick your workplace' (covered in the Japanese Constitution) is something no team can go against."
At the forefront of all this is how unfair the system currently is -- MLB teams basically have free reign over amateur players in Japan. Japanese teams are currently bound by the following:
- In order for a Japanese team to acquire the services of an amateur player, they must first designate who they want during the draft. If other teams designate the same player, there is a drawing to determine who gets the chance to negotiate. If only one team designates a player, that team automatically gets the right to negotiate with that player. (First two rounds)
- Japanese teams must abide to a salary cap when signing amateur players. Salaries can go no higher than roughly a $1M signing bonus (plus another percentage based on yield) and a yearly salary of about $140,000.
- Japanese teams can not contact any amateur players until tournaments for each organization finish.
And following right behind the unfairness in the system is something that's perhaps even more pressing and goes back to the Constitution.
"Freedom to pick your workplace" can't just be something the NPB allows Tazawa. The NPB is currently discussing the possibility of bringing back the kibo-waku* (it was abolished prior to the 2008 season due to mis-use) as an incentive to amateur players to stay in Japan and as a way to try and give NPB teams more of a chance to compete against the MLB. But many teams are against the kibo-waku because it's an easily corruptible system. And even if it were re-introduced, it would only help teams like the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants since contracts in the kibo-waku would most likely explode. And that in turn would increase the gap between teams. It also doesn't address players whose only goal is to make it to the Majors.
Ultimately, if an amateur player really wishes to go to the Majors, the NPB really can't do anything to stop him. The NPB can try to request that teams in the Majors avoid signing amateur players, but they can't force teams to stay away from amateur players. If they do, it could be tied to a violation of human rights.
The NPB currently has plans on meeting with reps from the Majors on the 17th to discuss the Tazawa situation. The NPB will then meet with reps from the 12 NPB teams to discuss matters further and solidify their thoughts. The three amateur organizations will then receive this information on the 22nd and all four organzations will meet again on the 26th.
What is the kibo-waku?
It basically takes place before the first round and gives teams and players the ability to pick where they want to go. If a team takes a player during this round, they forego their pick during the first round.
* The kibo-waku was abolished since teams were caught bribing players, the most recent case coming last year with the Seibu Lions.
Sankei News: 日本球界最悪のシナリオもÂ…ドラフト制度揺るがす田沢問題