The Cubs and the rest of baseball could find out this week if the Rakuten Golden Eagles will make Masahiro Tanaka available this winter. As previously reported, Rakuten’s offices are closed through Dec. 23 but Tanaka has been making public appearances in Japan over the last two days according to Baseball America. Ben Badler reported Tanaka has other events scheduled to start on Dec. 26 which could mean that Tanaka might meet with his team to discuss his future on either Dec. 24 or Dec. 25.
As Ben Badler pointed out, Rakuten has not made a decision on whether or not they will post Masahiro Tanaka this winter. Rakuten’s President, Yoho Tachibana promised on Friday the announcement would not be delayed much longer. Rakuten and Tanaka are expected to meet face-to-face about whether the team will post him or not before their decision is made public.
Another hold-up in Rakuten’s decision could be the currency exchange rate from the dollar to the yen. The exchange rate has fluctuated over the last several months while MLB and NPB worked out the new posting system.
Masahiro Tanaka has narrowed his search for an agent down to Casey Close, Arn Tellem and Mark Pieper. According to a report from Japan, Casey Close appears to be the frontrunner at this point to represent Tanaka.
The Rakuten Golden Eagles are on record stating they will do everything possible to keep him in Japan and pitching for their team. Reports last week suggested Rakuten could even double his current salary to around $8 million, which would make Tanaka the highest paid player in the history of Nippon Professional Baseball. Tanaka is currently under contract for the next two seasons at roughly $4 million per year.
During one of his recent public appearances, Tanaka was asked if he would still be motivated to help Rakuten win ballgames next year if he is not allowed to pitch in the majors. Tanaka told the Japanese newspaper that his motivation to win games would not change.
Rakuten’s decision on whether or not to post Tanaka is holding up the free agent and trade market for starting pitchers throughout baseball. And some feel the delay is helping out the Yankees, who are committed to get under the $189 million self-imposed salary cap for next season. The longer the Eagles take to decide on posting Tanaka gives the Yankees more time for a resolution on how many games Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for next year. Brian Cashman would, in turn, be able to use the money “saved” by the Rodriguez suspension to put toward adding another big-ticket player to his payroll … like Masahiro Tanaka.
The Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, Diamondbacks and Mariners are expected to be the most aggressive in their attempts to sign Tanaka, if he is posted. And it could cost a Major League team upwards of $120 million over the next six-plus years to add him to the front of their rotation.
It could be a very busy Christmas throughout the game of baseball, one way or the other, if a decision is announced concerning Masahiro Tanaka’s future.