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[12/17/2013] Rakuten Eagles: Masahiro Tanaka tells club he wants to play in the Majors

by on Dec.17, 2013 @ 1:58 pm, under NPB

Masahiro Tanaka met Rakuten Eagles President Yozo Tachibana at the team offices in Sendai today (from around 10:30am until a little after noon).  The twenty-five-year-old ace told Tachibana that he wanted to play in the Majors.  The Eagles will hold internal discussions on what steps to take next.

"I informed the organization that I would like them to give me permission to take on the challenge of playing in the Majors next season.  I am also grateful to President Tachibana for taking time out of his schedule to meet me.  I first said that I appreciated their support in helping me grow over the seven years since I joined Rakuten.  I then said I would like them to give me the opportunity to move onto the next challenge.  We have spoken a number of time, but the [agreement became] official today so he said he needed to take it back with him," Tanaka said.

When asked if a decision was not yet made, he replied, "Yes."

Ten television cameras and nearly fifty members of the media covered the press conference.

Source: Sponichi 12/17/2013, Sponichi 12/17/2013, Nikkan Sports 12/17/2013, Nikkan Sports 12/17/2013

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Daily Sports has posted portions of Tanaka's press conference:

What kinds of things did you say during your meeting?

I told them I appreciated their support in helping me develop over the seven years I was with the Rakuten Eagles.  I also told them I wanted them to give me the opportunity to move on to the next stage [in my career].

What was the response?

That they wanted some time.

So they tried to persuade you to stay?

That is what they have been always saying from the start.  And I took that into consideration before saying what I did.

When did you decide you wanted to play in the Majors?

My feelings to play [in the Majors] at some point in the future have never changed.  I decided I wanted to take on the challenge of moving to the next stage after the season ended and I started thinking about next season.

How did they react?

They were very cordial during our discussions so we were able to talk about a lot of other things as well.

Spring Training in the United States also begins in February.  That is not a lot of time.

A decision has not yet been made.  We will still talk.

There is still some time before you earn your FA option, but you want to do this while you are still young.

That is not everything, but that is one [reason].

What would you like to tell the fans?

I have nothing but feelings of appreciation.  I turned pro after graduating from high school and even though I was hit often while pitching on the Ichi-gun mound, they warmly cheered for me.  Those cheers really helped me.  I feel the Rakuten Eagles fans helped me grow.

Source: Daily Sports 12/17/2013

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A few Tachibana quotes...

From Sponichi:

"The organization feels he is an important piece in winning another championship.  We asked him to stay."

"We have a few concerns about the new agreement and are discussing things with the NPB."

"He has thought about this carefully.  It is important for us to accept this with sincerity."

Source: Sponichi 12/17/2013

From Nikkan Sports:

"I told him that the organization appreciated everything he did for us this past season.  He is still an important part of the team.  I would like him to stay to help us win another championship.  I did hear about his desire to play overseas, but this is not a decision I alone came make, so I told him I need to take it back with me [to the others]."

"Honestly, there are some things we do not fully understand [about the new agreement].  We have some questions and we are currently in contact with the NPB."

Source: Nikkan Sports 12/17/2013

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Former Rakuten Manager Katsuya Nomura on Tanaka and players heading to the Majors:

"Honestly, I think it is fifty-fifty.  Based on what the president has been saying, it seems like they will not let him go."

"Top Japanese players continue to go to America.  The best develop the best.  The level in the Majors is dropping.  I can tell even though [Tanaka] has not thrown any pitches yet.  He will find success [in the Majors]."

Source: Nikkan Sports 12/17/2013

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MLB.com has posted the following points about the news system (taken verbatim):

  • If an NPB Club wishes to make one of its players available to Major League Clubs, the NPB shall notify the Office of the Commissioner of the NPB player's potential availability and the "release fee" that a Major League Club must pay to the NPB Club in order to secure the NPB player's release. The NPB Club may not set the release fee at an amount higher than $20 million and the fee cannot be changed once it has been set by the NPB Club.
  • The Office of the Commissioner shall then "post" the NPB player's availability by notifying all Major League Clubs of the NPB player's availability and the release fee sought by the NPB Club.
  • All "postings" of NPB players must be made between November 1st and February 1st.
  • Beginning the day after the player is posted, and concluding 30 days later, any Major League Club willing to pay the release fee set by the NPB Club may then negotiate with the player in an attempt to reach an agreement on a contract.
  • If a Major League Club is able to reach an agreement on a contract with the posted NPB player, the Major League Club must pay the NPB Club the designated release fee, which will occur in installments, the timing of which depends on the size of the release fee.
  • If the posted NPB player fails to reach an agreement with a Major League Club, the release fee is not owed, the NPB player remains under reserve to his NPB Club, and the player may not be posted again until the following November 1st.
  • The term of the new posting agreement is three years, continuing from year-to-year thereafter until either the Office of the Commissioner or the NPB gives notice of its intent to terminate the agreement one hundred and eighty days prior to the anniversary of the commencement of the agreement.

Source: MLB.com 12/16/2013

===

[UPDATE @ 8:29pm]

Daily Sports posted a portion of Tachibana's interaction with the media.

Your meeting with Tanaka has ended.  What kind of things did you talk about?

I first talked about how much he helped us this year.  Then I told him he was an important part of our team next year and asked him to stay.

Tanaka told you that he wanted to play in the Majors.

This is not something I can decide right away on my own, so I told him I need to take it back with me [to the others].

It seems Tanaka is hard-set on playing in the Majors.

That is something we need to accept and consider with sincerity.

Is the new system the reason?

We do not understand everything about the new system, but we see it as being fairly close to free agency.

When will you have a decision?

We need to arrive at a decision as soon as possible.

Will your next meeting with him be your last?

That I do not know.

Source: Daily Sports 12/17/2013

[UPDATE 12/18 @ 12:22am]

According to a report posted by Sanspo on Tuesday morning, the Eagles will most likely post Tanaka.  Part of the reason might have to do with concerns about his motivation levels if they turn down his request.

Source: Sanspo 12/17/2013

Nikkan Gendai brings up a few interesting points about what could factor into the Eagles' decision to post Tanaka:

  • The Eagles could pull in two billion yen by posting Tanaka, but after taxes, they will probably only get about 1.2 billion yen.
  • There may have been some sort of handshake agreement where the organization promised to post Tanaka if he met certain conditions during the season.  With the kind of year he had, he likely cleared every requirement.
  • Allowing Tanaka to leave gives the organization a "Get out of Jail Free" card if they happen to finish in last place next season (worst case scenario).  It could be a big blow to the organization if he stays and the teams does poorly.

Source: Nikkan Gendai 12/16/2013

12 comments on “[12/17/2013] Rakuten Eagles: Masahiro Tanaka tells club he wants to play in the Majors

  1. muratafan

    I would imagine the public relations nightmare if Tanaka got hurt in 2014. The timing – for him – is simply perfect. I understand Rakuten’s position, but I would think that the public relations issue is really tough. The benefit of Tanaka staying is the increase in revenues, etc.. The cost is not really a cost per se, but rather a huge risk. If Tanaka gets hurt, not only might they NOT see the $20 million, but also Rakuten would look really, really bad for not letting Tanaka pursue his dream.

    If Tanaka has another solid year and stays healthy, Rakuten still gets $20 million and gets the additional revenue, perhaps another championship with Tanaka.

    That said, there is pretty much no way for Tanaka to do better than 2013.

    I think Tanaka will be in MLB in 2014.

    Reply
  2. Steve Novosel

    I strongly feel they should NOT let him go, to be honest. I suppose it depends on how strongly he feels, but I still think it sets a very bad precedent for NPB to sell its finest talent for so little.

    It really makes the league look weak.

    Reply
    1. Ed

      Steve, you are right. They can’t let him go, but they might not be able to keep him. Tanaka has a contact, but if he raises a big enough stink… Imagine if the Union supports him in a big way…

      It wouldn’t have to happen out where people can see it, but wills clash, politely, behind closed doors and it turns out that a consensus is reached that Tanaka will be posted…

      It seems to me that the NPB has already shown itself to be weak. The horse is out of the barn.

      I will make a prediction. If Tanaka is posted this year, Otani will be posted within five years, maybe before the new system is up for review.

      Reply
  3. muratafan

    I agree that it makes NPB look weak, but to be honest, it’s not as if the NPB owners really knew what they were doing. I really think had the NPB reached a legitimate consensus, they could have said ‘no changes’ and seen what would’ve happened. MLB owners have lost to the MLB union multiple times. I just think the NPB owners just dithered too much and by that time, MLB had the upper hand, so to speak. The $20 million fee is probably only applicable to Tanaka. Maeda…unlikely, Kikuchi…unlikely.

    Otani/Fujinami => definitely, BUT by the time they might get posted, the old agreement will be in effect. Hopefully, NPB owners – and this is really on them – will have learned their lesson. The posting agreement I think only lasts for the next 3 seasons.

    Reply
    1. Burly

      If the old system were still in place and he was posted this off-season, I think at least one MLB team would risk $25 million on Kenta Maeda. Under the new system, I think multiple teams would pony up $20 million for the opportunity to negotiate with Maeda. Yes, he’s small, but so’s Tim Lincecum, who’s older and just signed a two-year $35 million deal despite the fact that he’s been a number 4 starter at best the last two seasons.

      Reply
  4. Ed

    Based on the agreement posted above, I don’t see anything to prevent Otani being posted even this year. It all comes down to the willingness of the NPB team, in Otani’s case the Fighters. I don’t think for a moment that the Fighters will post Otanit that soon, but they could. What happens if at the end of next season Otani puts his foot down and says, “Post me,” how would that be different from what Tanaka is doing now? Just the amount of time left on the contract.

    To be honest, I think the proper way to do things would be to treat players moving to the Majors the same way as trades are handled within the Majors or within the NPB. You want Otani? (Tanaka, whoever) he is ours till his contract is up. So, what are you offering? Money? Prospects? A good DH? The Fighters will probably need some infielders this next year… I know it won’t happen anytime soon, maybe never, but I think it should happen someday.

    It may never happen. The NPB and the vast majority of fans want to keep Yakyu a mostly homegrown Japanese thing. That’s fine, but it gives the MLB more power and ensures that the top talent flows to the Majors in return for cash, Or the free agents just leave, if they can find a team willing to sign them. The price offree agent stars to stay in Japan goes up, too.

    Reply
  5. Ed

    Maybe the Eagles will take a page from the Fighters’ play book and trade Tanaka to another Japanese team the way the Fighters traded Itoi last season when he asked to be posted last off season.

    Reply
  6. Ed

    I think the owners said to themselves, Okay, twenty million to post a player, then we can say, “Twenty million isn’t enough for a super star like Tanaka, so, of course, we can’t post him. But here is Maeda for ## million. Any takers?”

    I don’t think they will be able to make it stick.

    Reply
  7. Burly

    From a strictly baseball standpoint, the Golden Eagles’ best move is to hold on to Tanaka for another year. The odds of Tanaka suffering a major injury in 2014, after all his seasons of good health, is relatively low, i.e., well under 50%. Even if Tanaka comes back to earth in 2014 or is plagued by minor injuries, he’ll still command the same $20 million posting fee next season, and many MLB teams will be takers.

    The only real question is the public relations nightmare that comes with refusing to allow Tanaka to go to MLB when he wants to go and is clearly ready for the world’s highest baseball stage.

    Except for Yomiuri and Hanshin and maybe Softbank, NPB teams simply can’t complete with a majority of MLB teams because the revenues just aren’t there. All one has to do is look at the team attendance figures of NPB and MLB, not to mention the higher television revenues that can be generated by nearly three times the population, to see that.

    The very best players in the world are going to gravitate to MLB because that’s where the highest salaries are. The only way to keep players like Masahiro Tanaka in NPB is through artificial restrictions that the players will eventually rebel against.

    Reply
    1. Steve Novosel

      Let the players rebel. That’s what should happen. They should demand rationality and fairness in their relationships with their teams, the league, and with MLB.

      Acquiescing on this issue is a setback for them, I think.

      Reply

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