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Junichi Tazawa set on going to the Majors

by on Sep.15, 2008 @ 1:37 pm, under Industrial

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

0 comments on “Junichi Tazawa set on going to the Majors

  1. knucklehead7

    I think what you wrote the other day, essentially making the workplace environment better for the players, is the most effective way of dealing with the issue. It’s not entirely fair, but to some extent it’s a marketplace issue. MLB affords players the chance to play against the best from around the world and to make more money. That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of legitimate reasons to stay in Japan, but like you said, you can only do so much if a player has his heart set on MLB.

  2. Gwynar

    I think the NPB needs to change their thinking from how to stop players from going to the Majors to how they can change their current position and make the best of it. If players don’t feel like toiling around in the NPB for 9 years before getting a shot at the Majors, maybe they’d be more willing if it were 5 years.

    Instead of making it sound as if the Majors are a bad thing, I think the NPB needs to perhaps reconsider this stance and see it as a way to polish their players, since may tend to return to the NPB later on in their careers. And by having players in the Majors, they are also better prepared to play on the international stage for things like the WBC.

    And while it might be a knock on the NPB, I think it might also be helpful for the NPB to market themselves as a good place to gain more pro experience before jumping the gun to get to the Majors. If more players see it as a means to get to the Majors instead of a wall keeping them from the Majors, maybe they can keep the number of players like Junichi Tazawa from increasing.

  3. thebishop

    Mike mentioned something to me a while back about cutting back on the amount of years it takes for them to be free agents. At this rate, it’s probably more necessity than concession if players are willing to bypass the entire system to go to MLB. Of course, they’re going to get stuck playing in the minors here instead of going to the big club like Ichiro and others have, but that might actually make things easier for them to make the transition.

  4. Gwynar

    I actually haven’t read anything specifically about cutting back the years, but this is definitely something that needs to be examined. I know clubs in Japan probably won’t want to shorten the period, but at this point, if it will help keep the number of amateurs from going directly to the Majors down, then it’s something they seriously need to consider.

  5. knucklehead7

    In June, they agreed to lower the years required for domestic free agency:


    Players will still be required to play nine seasons in Japan
    before departing to ply their trade overseas, but those drafted from
    corporate and collegiate leagues from the 2007 autumn draft will be
    permitted to act as free agents after just seven seasons in deals
    involving domestic clubs.
    ”We are satisfied that seven years was the number that they
    came up with,” said players’ association president Shinya Miyamoto.
    ”We would like to have further discussions after two years to see if
    we can improve more. They actually budged on a lot of issues, like
    the number of years and part about compensation.”


  6. Gwynar

    Heh… Must have missed that.

    It’s a nice first step. And it shows that the NPB is willing to change.

    My guess for the next step would be to drop the 9 year requirement to 7 years. I just can’t see the NPB making large, drastic changes this year, even with the mounting possibilities of more players following in Junichi Tazawa’s footsteps.

    Actually, it sounds like the player’s association is ultimately looking for 6 years for everything. At this point, that sounds pretty reasonable for me.