The Masahiro Tanaka derby may not be getting started until 2015 after a report this morning in the New York Times which says the Rakuten Golden Eagles may not let their star pitcher leave the Japanese league for the United states. The Eagles have been voicing their displeasure with the change in the posting fee limit rules since the get go, because they wanted that big pay day they were sure to get when he left for the Major Leagues.
UPDATE 2:36 PM: Okay, back from the grind, and check this out:
Several sources believe, especially if no Tanaka decision comes soon, that Rakuten is exploring ways to get its money, beyond the $20MM.
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) December 19, 2013
It sounds like Rakuten (and whichever team wins the post/negotiations) will try to skirt some rules in order to snag extra money for Tanaka. Can't really blame them since they'd be taking a financial and competitive hit if Tanaka leaves without what the parent club considers to be fair compensation under the new posting system rules. Keep in mind that Tanaka could still be posted, although the Eagles will try their hardest to entice him to stay.
UPDATE 7:47 AM: Yakyu Night Owl on Twitter has this to say:
— Yakyu Night Owl (@yakyunightowl) December 19, 2013
The idea is still the same: Rakuten will go ahead and try to entice Tanaka to stay, but whether he will be posted or not is up in the air.
As compensation to Tanaka, the Eagles are willing to double or triple his salary to soften the blow that he will not get that big pay day in the states. If his salary is tripled, Tanaka would earn about $12 Million in his final year in the Japan league, as his contract expires at the end of the 2014 season. Keeping Tanaka for one more year, would make them the favorites to repeat as the Champions of the Japanese league; though on the down side by not allowing him to post for the Major Leagues the Eagles will waive their rights to the guaranteed $20 Million they would have gotten if he were allowed to leave now.
Even though Tanaka has made his wishes known, the Eagles who own his rights ultimately have the final say. If they would rather win than get money for their star player, more power to them. A lot of fans of teams in the Major Leagues would love for their teams to have the same attitude.
Of course, these reports could be false or misunderstood. Tanaka might still be posted, giving the teams in the Major League the chance to bid for his services. If that does happen, which looks rather unlikely considering these latest reports, let's take a look at just what he might fetch on what is basically an open market.
According to some sources, the team that wins will be paying out the nose for his services. According to Jon Heyman, a General Manager who is opting not to take part in the bidding for Tanaka is sure that the star Japanese pitcher will get more than $100M in any deal he signs; which is likely why they are opting out of the derby to begin with.
1 GM who wont be bidding for tanaka: "i dont think theres any doubt" he'll get more than $100M
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 17, 2013
Tanaka is one heck of a pitcher, putting up a flawless 24-0 record in Japan (along with the Japan Series championship performance) and there are several teams who would love to sign him to a deal. The bad news for the Chicago Cubs, who are reportedly very interested in signing him to pitch for their club in 2014, is that the price of entering into the derby is capped at $20 Million which opens up the door for anyone with a spare $20 Million to bid on him and offer him a contract thanks to the new posting rules for players in the Japanese league.
Previously, whichever team paid the highest posting fee was the only team allowed to negotiate a contract with players coming over from Japan. For example, when Yu Darvish entered the posting system, the Texas Rangers won a blind bid with north of $51 Million, and his contract was $56 Million over six years. Not a bad price for Darvish, less than $10 Million a year, but the overall cost was $107 Million; the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters received the $51 Million dollar bidding fee.
When Darvish came over, he was seen as an elite pitcher, Tanaka is looked at as a far better one. If Darvish was able to get $56 over six years, I am sure that Tanaka will have no problem getting at least that much, which plus the posting fee would be a meager $76 Million. That is walking around money for most teams. However, that is faulty logic in terms of negotiations.
Because the posting fee is so much smaller, teams are free to offer up the money they saved on the extravagant price tag just to talk to the player and invest the money in actual salary.
For example, if the posting fee of $20 Million cap was around when Darvish came out, what would have stopped the Rangers from using the $31 Million saved from adding that to the contract offered to him? Six years worth $87 Million is pretty nice, but with other teams allowed to bid on him the price tag likely would have gone much higher.
The general coconscious around baseball fans on Twitter is they feel a team would be able to sign him to a six year deal worth $100 Million, which after the posting fee is taken out for the Rakuten Golden Eagles would give him a cool $80 Million over six years. Paying a pitcher with the resume of Tanaka $15 Million a year should not be a problem, even though I personally hate long term deals for pitchers you are going to need one if you hope to land this star pitcher.
But that is where the interesting problem is, and where the wild card comes into play. Teams can structure their deals any way they want. The New York Yankees are famous for throwing money around, and might night see a problem with offering a four or five year deal worth the $100 Million if that made them the front runners. I would rather pay more money per year for a player than the same amount stretched over more years which would see you paying high amounts for a player when they may be on the down side of their careers. Though, being only 25 teams would have to hope that his down side is still a ways off.
If that one General Manager was right, and the Tanaka price tag will be over $100 Million, you almost have to wonder how much money teams will be willing to offer, and how much is too much.
Taking the posting fees out of the equation (meaning the actual money the player sees, and what is on the payroll), I see nothing wrong with a six year deal which pays the player $80. While he will not go 25-0 in the Major Leagues, if he can win 15-20 games, paying him around $13 Million a year would be a sound investment. How about if he gets offered $100 Million over six years? Do you think he would be worth about $16 Million a year? Now we are entering into the big boy negotiations.
How much would you be willing to pay Tanaka to ensure you win his services? What would your maximum price tag be for him, before you bow out and tell another team to take him? How much is too much for a pitcher who has thrived in Japan, but has proven nothing in a league which is far more talented?
The Cubs really want him, and so do their fans. I expect that they will be willing to spend a lot to try to sign him, but there will be an amount that is too high for them. With the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers (who do have that multi-billion dollar TV deal) in the mix, I am not sure the Cubs will have enough to sign him.
In my humble opinion, I think the Tanaka Derby will max out at $120 Million over six years, not counting the posting fee required to negotiate with him. If I were Theo Epstein and Tom Ricketts, I am not sure I would be willing to spend $20 Million dollars a year on him. While he looks great in a Japanese league which saw Matt Murton look like an All Star, who know what he will look like when he comes to the states. Look at Kosuke Fukudome for example. Fans really wanted the Cubs to sign him, and started talking about him a year before he came over to the states. The Cubs signed him, fans celebrated, he failed, fans bashed the club for signing him.
I will however make a prediction on Tanaka and the fans response to him. If the Cubs are unable to sign him, a percentage of fans will call the team cheap no matter what he signs for, even if he does get my predicted maximum. If the Cubs do win the bidding, however, fans will once again celebrate their team getting a premier player; and once again if he fails the fans will bash the organization for spending stupid money for a complete fraud.
Sometime the story never changes. But you cannot win if you do not take the chance. But the question remains, how much of a chance are you willing to take on Tanaka?