Rakuten Eagles' owner Hiroshi Mikitani had a revealing conversation over Twitter.
In response to the following question:
Mikitani-san, this may not be my concern, but will [Masahiro] Tanaka be able to go to the Majors?
We have come this far, it is now up to the Majors. Honestly, this will really hurt our team, but I think it is a good thing for young people to take on new challenges.
UPDATE @ 10:56am -
Mikitani also spoke to reporters on Tuesday and said, "There is not much that can be done until the posting system agreement is finalized. No sense in talking about hypotheticals. I think it is good for young people to take on new challenges, but please allow me to stop there."
He also said, "With Iwakuma-kun, a lot of things happened after [he was posted] so I think it best not to say thing too lightly. I am sure there will be a formal announcement from the team once a decision has been made. Even if he is posted, we have our past experiences so I do not want to irresponsible with the things I say."
Source: Sports Hochi 11/27/2013
News and notes on the posting system and Masahiro Tanaka:
- The Japan Professional Baseball Players Association (JPBPA) is slated to make a decision on the new posting system today. They have been contacting individual player chairmen from each of the twelve NPB teams since the night of the 11th, beginning with JPBPA player chairman Motohiro Shima. The final decision will be based on those discussions. [ZakZak 11/13/2013]
- There is a good chance Tanaka will speak to team president Yozo Tachibana at some point during the Asia Series. Assuming the new posting system is in place, Tanaka could be posted at any time after the team returns on the 21st. [ZakZak 11/13/2013]
- Both Tanaka and Tachibana have denied that there will be any discussions during the Asia Series. Tanaka told reporters that his posting discussions would have to wait until everything was over. [Sports Hochi 11/13/2013]
- According to Daily Sports, Tanaka may not hold discussions with the Eagles until some time on or after the 25th (the day after the team's victory parade). [Daily Sports 11/13/2013] ... Sponichi feels talks might take place sometime on or after the 22nd (the day after the team returns from the Asia Series). [Sponichi 11/13/2013]
- Tachibana does not understand the timing of the JPBPA's refusal since they could have easily spoken up a lot sooner. He is also not sure what to think of the JPBPA's decision to make a decision based on Tanaka's opinion, since it places a lot of pressure on him. [Sponichi 11/13/2013]
- The JPBPA could risk losing a lot by allowing the new posting system to pass, but they also may not want to be the reason why Tanaka cannot post, if it comes down to that. [ZakZak 11/13/2013]
- The MLBPA is apparently entirely against allowing posted players the ability to negotiate with multiple teams and is prepared to turn down any agreement that includes that kind of wording. Ultimately the JPBPA may have thought they had a little more leverage in negotiations before they realized they did not. [Gendai 11/12/2013]
- There may be some in the JPBPA that want to continue fighting, but not at the expense of Tanaka. [Sports Hochi 11/13/2013]
From the NY Post's Joel Sherman:
... Officials from multiple clubs expected to try to land Tanaka told me they are extremely concerned about how hard he was pushed to help his Rakuten Golden Eagles win a championship. It is possible this was brinksmanship to scare off suitors or an early form of negotiations to lower the eventual payout.
However, I spoke to these officials individually, not collectively, and I did sense genuine worry Tanaka threw four complete games in five postseason starts plus relieved twice, including throwing 15 pitches to earn the save in the decisive game 24 hours after expending 160 pitches in a start.
... Also, the heavy workload is not going to curtail a group of ambitious bidders led probably by the Yankees and Dodgers, but also likely to include the Angels, Diamondbacks and several others.
Still, an executive from another interested club said, "To get this deal done, [Tanaka] is going to have to take the most thorough physical ever, get shot full of dye so a team here can really know as much as possible about his shoulder and elbow. It does not seem impossible to me that you can have a team win the post and then not like what they see and just not sign [Tanaka]."
Source: NY Post 11/12/2013
From ESPN's Jerry Crasnick:
... In our annual ESPN.com Hot Stove survey, we touched base with 21 general managers, assistant GMs, player personnel people and scouts and sought their opinion on seven prominent questions that will make news over the next three months.
... 5. Which team will sign Japanese free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka? Does he get more than Yu Darvish's $60 million deal with Texas?
Responses: Los Angeles Dodgers 9; New York Yankees 6; San Francisco Giants 1; Chicago Cubs 1; Toronto Blue Jays 1; Seattle Mariners 1. Two executives declined to guess Tanaka's destination. Of the 21 execs surveyed, all but a handful think his payout will surpass Darvish's deal with the Rangers.
... "Market forces are working in his favor," a National League official said. "It is a small sample, but the recent track record of players with a similar background has an effect. On top of that, at least on the surface, you have two financial heavyweights in the Yankees and Dodgers going at it on this one player."
Source: ESPN 11/11/2013
A quick observation: the question that has yet to be answered is what team owner Hiroshi Mikitani wants to do. The team ultimately has the right to turn down Tanaka's request to post. If Mikitani does not want Tanaka to go, he could just as easily stop it from happening. For those that talk about the money the team can stand to lose by not posting Tanaka: the team has a much better chance at winning a second championship if he stays. The amount of money and publicity he can pull in if the teams repeats will be worth a lot more than what he posts for, not just for the organization, but also for the whole of the Tohoku region (economic impact). Additionally, how much do the Eagles stand to lose by posting Tanaka?
The nice thing to do would be to post Tanaka. But the right thing to do, at least from a business perspective, may be wait one more year.
From the New York Post's George A. King III:
Major League Baseball sent all teams a letter this week instructing them to avoid talking to clubs and players in Japan until a new posting agreement is finalized.
According to a person who saw the letter, an agreement could be "several weeks" away as MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball continue to negotiate changes to the process.
... One sticking point is MLB teams face a possible cost of $120 million to land Tanaka. Teams in Japan use the posting process for much needed money, but if the total outlay for a MLB team rises too high MLB teams simply might wait for the player to become a free agent. Then the player’s team in Japan would receive nothing when he leaves.
Also being discussed is whether to allow the player to have more say in what team he negotiates with instead of being limited to the winning bidder.
Source: New York Post 11/7/2013
On somewhat of a side note, ZakZak recently posted an article that mentions how the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association (JPBPA) might be holding out on the new posting agreement in return for changing the free agency rules from the current eight years domestic/nine years international to a flat seven years domestic and international.
Additionally, there are a couple of interesting rumors surrounding the Rakuten Eagles and Masahiro Tanaka. Team president Yozo Tachibana is reportedly ok with posting Tanaka, but team owner Hiroshi Mikitani is not. It would look bad for Tachibana to turn back on his word now, but he also cannot go against the owner's demands. As a result, two factions may have popped up within the organization: one group, perhaps led by Tachibana, might be in full support of the players association getting the free agency rules changed to seven years, which could in turn give Tanaka an option either this year or next and might be enough for him to quietly give up on posting this year, and therefore save Tachibana from having to back down on his word (this was Tanaka's seventh season, but he did miss some time over the years with injuries so he may not have enough service time, but there are also other things to consider, such as whether or not any changed rules would apply to current players, or only to players that turn pro this year); and a second group, perhaps led by Mikitani, that might be secretly applying pressure on the NPB to delay negotiations on the new posting agreement to make it impossible for Tanaka to post this year and allow Mikitani to hold on to Tanaka without making him or the organization look bad.
Again, just rumors though.
Source: ZakZak 11/8/2013
And while we're on the topic of Tanaka:
Sponichi asked 100 people visiting the Eagles' team store in Sendai Station if they wanted to see Tanaka pitch in the Majors or stay in Sendai. Fifty-four said they were fine with him going and forty-six said they wanted him to stay. Additionally, of the forty-six that said they wanted him to stay, seven said they would be ok with him leaving if he remained in Sendai for just one more year.
Source: Sponichi 11/5/2013
And some Hisashi Iwakuma quotes on Tanaka:
On Tanaka making it to the Majors: I think he can succeed. So long as he has strong feelings when facing Major League batters, he should do fine.
On Tanaka's thirty-game winning streak: It is in the realm of the Gods. Tanaka has a strong sense of responsibility and he got the job done on the mound. I really think it is amazing.
On Tanaka's pitches: Japanese pitchers are special. They have the kind of movement and control other pitchers do not have and that becomes a very important thing. ... Myself and Uehara use the splitter to get hitters to get themselves out. With regards to Tanaka, all of his pitches should translate well.
On Tanaka wanting to play in the Majors: Not everyone can experience playing in the Majors and the NPB. Aiming for your goals is a good thing.
Source: Nikkan Sports 11/5/2013
[11/6/2013] New posting system agreement to be delayed, Rakuten’s discussions with Tanaka also pushed back
The NPB and MLB are close to finalizing a new posting system agreement. There were reports about the two sides making a joint announcement about the new agreement some time after the Nippon Series. But on November 1, the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association (JPBPA) submitted their opinion in writing to the NPB and claimed that the new changes made little sense for the players and NPB teams.
The NPB cannot sign the new agreement until the twelve NPB teams and JPBPA have given their approval.
The biggest question that remains now is what happens to Masahiro Tanaka.
The Rakuten Eagles have already told reporters they will not talk to Tanaka about the Majors until they have had a chance to review the finalized posting agreement. Team president Yozo Tachibana told reporters on Tuesday that he had heard about the delays and that there was a chance the agreement might not be ready until after the Asia Series (November 20). The Eagles also have Fan Appreciation Day on the 23rd and the team parade on the 24th. This could potentially push discussions back to the end of November, or early December, assuming the new agreement is in place by then.
It should be noted that the JPBPA is unhappy that players are still only allowed to negotiate with one team under the new agreement. They even went so far as to say that it would be better to continue under the previous agreement than sign the new agreement into action.
UPDATE 11/7 10:03am -
The JPBPA likes the idea where posted players have the option to negotiate with a number of teams (for example, the top three bidders), but it was apparently struck down by the MLB and MLBPA out of concern that it could drive player salaries up.
UPDATE 11/8 1:00am -
According Sports Hochi, under the new agreement, teams that fail to sign players they won rights to will be fined up to two million US dollars (Nikkan Sports says fines will be about 2.5% of the posting fee). All money will go to the MLB.
The NPB is fine with the new agreement and will try to get the JPBPA to agree before the end of the month. However, the players do not see the new agreement as an improvement over the previous agreement because they feel it does not address the problems.
Sponichi has posted a brief conversation the media had with Tanaka on Tuesday.
With regards to the discussions you had about playing in the Majors last year, what are your current thoughts?
I cannot really comment on that right now.
When will you meet with the team?
This time, that time... There is really no set time.
How do you currently feel?
I will be able to say everything once I have spoken my mind to the team.
Are you interested in what happens to the new posting agreement?
Have your feelings about the Majors changes after winning a championship?
I can not really say. I am just relieved it is over. I had the WBC so this year was long. I just want to relax.
There are some that are worried about how you pitched on consecutive days.
Well, here I am just doing stuff as I usually do. I have nothing to say.
Source: Sponichi 11/6/2013
According to a report posted by Sponichi this morning, the Rakuten Eagles are leaning towards allowing Masahiro Tanaka to post after the season, should he so desire. Team president Yozo Tachibana is expected to meet Tanaka at the team offices in Sendai this week, perhaps as early as Monday (10/4).
The organization is apparently ok with posting Tanaka because of what he did for the team this year -- he finished the regular season undefeated and has also performed well during the postseason.
Team owner Hiroshi Mikitani was quoted as saying, "Perhaps we should not let such a great pitcher go to the Majors so easily," back in September. However, it seems may in the organization currently feel they should allow Tanaka to chase his dreams after he helped Tohoku attain their dream of making it to the Nippon Series.
Source: Sponichi 11/3/2013
UPDATE 11/4 @ 2:36am -
Team president Yozo Tachibana was asked about the team's stance on posting Tanaka on Sunday and he replied, "We will be talking to him soon. We want to know what he is thinking, but he is really important part of this team."
Source: Nikkan Sports 11/3/2013
According to reports filed by Sponichi, the New York Yankees interested Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten). A number of other other MLB teams -- like the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants, and Los Angeles Dodgers -- are also said to be in the hunt for the right-handed ace.
The Yankees have been keeping an eye on Tanaka since 2010. Their Japan scout, Shoichi Kida, has been keeping the organization updated on Tanaka's status.
Source: Sponichi 1/4/2013
It is a done deal. The Texas Rangers have signed Yu Darvish to a six-year deal worth US$60M.
Today, I have officially signed with the Texas Rangers.
I think I will hold a press conference in the US first and then hold one in Hokkaido upon my return.
That is when I would like to thank the Fighters' fans, the people of Japan, for all their support.
Sponichi mentions that his press conference will likely come some time after the 20th, since his workouts in Miyazaki last until then, and that the uniform number 11 is a possibility. They also note that Rangers' GM Jon Daniels arrived at the Rangers Ballpark at around 9:50am on 1/17, followed by Arn Tellem and Don Nomura at 10:24am; total negotiation time since 1/16: 13 hours and 30 minutes.
Nikkan Sports posted the following brief timeline of events:
10/29 - Starts Climax Series game against Seibu. Leaves gave after allowing one run over seven innings; team loses in extra innings.
12/8 - Darvish informs fans of his decision via his personal blog.
12/9 - Bidding begins.
12/15 - Bidding ends. Rangers, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Cubs mentioned as bidders.
12/20 - Texas Rangers named as winning bidder.
1/1 - Leaves for US out of Narita.
1/2 - Visits Rangers Ballpark, meets with Nolan Ryan, Ron Washington, and other members of the organization.
1/5 - Returns to Japan.
1/15 - Negotiations down to five or six years.
1/16 - Tellem and Nomura arrive in Texas for negotiations.
Nikkan Sports is also reporting that his divorce will be finalized today as well.
UPDATE @ 9:56am - Nikkan Sports has posted comments from the following people:
I think [Darvish] will manage to mix in quicker than other Japanese players since he is used to foreign cultures. He is really happy about signing with the team and has said he will do his best.
[Darvish] is a great signing. Yu does not have any experience in the Majors yet, but we feel he has the ability to do well on the MLB stage. His addition to our young staff will provide more stability and make us a competitive team. He will help this team.
I am happy we were able to sign [Darvish]. He is a talent young individual with a bright future. I sure he will do well right from the start. I do not want him to push himself too hard beginning with Spring Training. He is big and has a good fastball and off-speed pitches. He is a special pitcher. He is not your average Japanese pitcher; he is also not someone you can easily find in the Majors either.
UPDATE @ 10:55am - Sponichi and Nikkan Sports have posted comments from the following people:
The Rangers had been keeping track of Darvish over the last few years and relationship they built up through their scouts was a big factor for him and his family. ... The Rangers have their eye on winning a World Series and Darvish is excited about taking part in the challenge.
It has been seven years since [Darvish] joined our team and we are extremely grateful for what he brought to our organization. We would like to watch over him, with the rest of the fans, as he takes on this next challenge [in his life] and we believe that his strong ambitions will also help him reach the top in the Majors.
Regarding the bid money: We would like [to use the bid] to help improve our team in the best way possible and will consider all kinds of possibilities.
UPDATE @ 1:09pm - Darvish worked out behind closed doors in Miyazaki today -- media requests are not being accepted by the Nippon Ham Fighters until after the press conference.
The Rangers held a press conference at 6pm EST and the 80 or so seats they had available were quickly filled; there were also about 20 TV cameras providing coverage.
UPDATE @ 3:27pm - Some more comments...
[Darvish] signed a big deal and he is one of Japan's best. I want to see him go crazy over there and show the Majors what Japanese men are made of.
I look forward to watching [Darvish] pitch up close. I am happy that we will be teammates again.
I look forward to playing on the same team and working towards a World Series Championship.
I understood this was going to happen when I accepted the managerial job. ... I want to see [Darvish] take the bull by its horns. He should be recognized even more. The Rangers are a team that can score runs. I think he can win at least 18 games, 20 if things go well.
Somewhere inside I was hoping [Darvish] would return, I will secretly cheer him on. I expect him to remain in the rotation a full year and win at least 15 games.
I am obviously sad, but I want to support Darvish and his decision to play in the Majors. I want to see him success, not just for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, but also for Japanese baseball world.
UPDATE @ 5:53pm - More comments...
When [Darvish] was pre-announced as a starter you knew you would see him pitch the next day. It is a little sad that one of the players fans loved to watch is now leaving.
Nippon Ham Fighters' Shinya Tsuruoka (caught many of Darvish's games):
This is wonderful news. I want him to work hard and lead the league in victories. ... [His salary] is amazing. I am sure it is tied directly into what he is worth.
UPDATE @ 7:46pm - More updates...
The deal guarantees Darvish $56 million, with $4 million available in roster bonuses and another lump sum to be had if he wins a Cy Young Award.
Darvish can also opt out of the deal after five years and become a free agent if he meets a list of demanding performance thresholds, Daniels said.
Also included in the contract is an interpreter and a trainer, but that was the extent of the personal touches he wanted included in the deal.
Sponichi reports that the media received fax messages from companies representing Darvish and his ex-wife, Saeko, stating that the two formally file divorce papers today after lengthy discussions about their futures. Saeko gets full custody of their two children. Both Darvish and Saeko are also planning to post updates to their respective blogs at 8pm.
Don Nomura told reporters that discussions really came down to the wire: "At one point, with about three minutes remaining, I thought talks were going to break down."
UPDATE @ 8:27pm - Another comment...
I received an update this morning. The Rangers are a team that Bobby Valentine once managed and Nolan Ryan is the president of. I think they are a team familiar to people in Japan because of Uehara and Tateyama. I personally met Nolan Ryan in 2009 and he showed me around their stadium. Now that the decision for him to a join a new team has been finalized, I hope Darvish helps them win the World Series they missed out on last season. I am sure Darvish will make it in the Majors since he is an upstanding individual who is devoted to practicing and has sincere feelings for the game of baseball.
Some minor updates on the Yu Darvish front...
Club officials and the agents for Yu Darvish worked late into the night Tuesday in an attempt put the finishing touches on a deal that would put the Japanese star pitcher in a Texas Rangers uniform.
Joining the agents and club brass were an estimated 20 media members from Japan. They stood outside the center-field offices doing what everyone else seems to be doing -- waiting in the dark -- before the Rangers showed some goodwill by allowing the group into the lobby and supplying them with pizza and beer.
They are convinced, said the source, that Darvish wants to make the jump from Nippon Professional Baseball in a Rangers uniform. But his agents have cautioned media outlets in Japan throughout the process that Darvish could very well be back with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2012 and be posted again in November.
At this moment, they still have 81/2 hours to get it done.
The word this morning is the Rangers optimism has waned a bit. The two sides negotiated late into the night and there are definitely still some differences that have cooled the Rangers optimism.
As of this post, the Rangers will have seven hours to work out a deal (January 18 at 5pm EST or January 19 at 7am JST).
UPDATE @ 4:09am - A series of tweets from a number of reporters...
FoxSports.com's Jon Morosi:
#Rangers and Yu Darvish are still working on details, but they are making good progress. Four hours to deadline. [link]
Source: #Rangers, Yu Darvish now "close" to reaching deal. [link]
CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler:
Rangers are indeed close on deal with Darvish, as @jonmorosi wrote. Not done yet, but both sides intent on getting deal by deadline today [link]
CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman:
Rangers and darvish/tellem working hard (via @DKnobler). All anticipation is it gets done. team wants 6 year deal [link]
darvish deal will get done, sources say. [link]
Darvish agreement with #rangers expected to be 6 years. #rangers [link]
Less than three hours to the deadline...
The Milwaukee Brewers announced that they signed Norichika Aoki to a two-year deal with a club option for 2014. From an official press release:
The Milwaukee Brewers today signed outfielder Norichika Aoki to a two-year contract with a club option for 2014. The announcement was made by Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Melvin.
Aoki will be introduced to the media at a date and time to be determined.
UPDATE @ 9:39am - Sponichi mentions that the deal could be for around US$1M - 1.5M a year. A separate Sponichi report notes that Nez Balelo may have convinced the Brewers to bid for Aoki by telling them that he was a quality player that would not be expecting a lot of money.
According to FoxSports' Jon Paul Morosi, the Texas Rangers feel pretty good about their chances of signing Yu Darvish.
The Associated Press reports that Nolan Ryan said he felt confident the team would sign Darvish before the deadline during the team's annual winter banquet.
Sponichi notes that the Rangers reportedly offer Darvish a six year deal worth about US$8.5M (or ~654M yen) while Darvish is pushing for a five year deal worth around US$15M (or ~1.15B yen).
"His abilities are just as good as the abilities we have here," Washington said. "The whole key, if we end up signing him, is for him just to be Yu Darvish. We’re not expecting him to put us on his shoulder. We’re not expecting him to do anything special."
"If you're able to throw strikes, pound the strike zone and get guys out, it doesn't matter what league you play in," Lewis said. "He has overpowering stuff, especially in that league. That was the big thing that stood out to me, his fastball command."
Sponichi mentions that two other Japanese players have been gifted western (cowboy) boots in the past. Koji Uehara received a pair from teammate Jamie Walker in 2009 and Kazuo Matsui was given a pair, plus a cowboy hat, from Drayton McLane in 2008.
The Rangers have until 1/18 at 5pm (or 1/19 at 7am) to finalize a deal with Darvish.
UPDATE @ 1:02pm - The Star Telegram's Jeff Wilson has posted the following update:
"My expectations are that we'll get something done," Ryan said. "It's a process. During the period that we negotiate with someone we really don't talk about it, but I'm optimistic we'll get something done."
Ryan is also anticipating that the negotiations will go down to the wire because "that's the nature of these things," he said. "We'll just have to see how it works."