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.
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
A few Tachibana quotes...
"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
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
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