Finally: Changes to the Posting Agreement With Japan

It looks like Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball finally have agreed on changes to the posting system between their two bodies. Joel Sherman reports:

Since MLB is the last to approve this, and the $20 million cap was their idea, it’s probably going to be approved.

There is one wrinkle that is a bigger deal and could cause consternation with certain clubs. After bandying about proposals that used reverse order of standings to determine the posting winner, this proposal will allow all of the teams that pony up $20 million to get to the negotiating table. Small-market teams will be happy to get to the table with the big boys, but unhappy, perhaps, about having to go toe-to-toe with bigger wallets. Perhaps the fact that there are things to like and not like about these changes — coupled with the $20 million cap that most American teams are probably happy about — means that this is likely to pass in MLB’s Executive Counsel.

This is a coup for the Japanese baseball players that wish to come to America. After all sorts of ideas that did not improve their leverage at all, the best Japanese players suddenly have the ability to negotiate with multiple teams. That will have the immediate impact of increasing the player’s share of the money. If the market bore $111 million for Yu Darvish, but he was posted in this system, he’d be $40 million richer. This should also mean that Japanese stars have better incentives for asking their teams to post them to American teams. Market-based solutions for the win.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t losers in this deal. Japan’s teams posting their players get less money for their troubles. It may even make it less likely that Masahiro Tanaka gets posted. $20 million is not nothing, but it’s also not the $50-60 million that the Rakuten Golden Eagles may have gotten under the old posting system.

The onus on setting the price for a player now shifts to the Japanese team, which has pluses and minuses. Having a player return to Japan after agreeing to be posted puts egg on the faces of all involved. Once a player requests to be posted, and the team agrees, nobody wants the player to have to return. Imagine if trade negotiations were public, and a team had to publicly announce that they had failed to trade a player but were super happy to get him back for the upcoming season. When Hisashi Iwakuma failed to sign with the Athletics, and his agent accused the team of negotiating in bad faith, we got an idea of how Japanese baseball was afraid of that happening again. Now they can set a price that they think is attainable, but they get less money for their player as a result.

It looks like Japanese clubs will get a little less money for their players in return for the security that posted players will actually move on. American baseball gets price controls on the process, and Japanese players get leverage. Each party got something they wanted. And now, there’s a system in place and American fans can begin to hope that a certain Rakuten pitcher decides he’d like to come to America. From his perspective, the process just got a lot more attractive, after all.

[A correction was made to this article. Japanese teams set the price of their posted players up to $20 million, the author erroneously believed that it was merely a $20 million cap.]

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