The Daily Tanaka: MLB Asks Rakuten for Written Assurance No Side Deal Exists with Masahiro Tanaka

According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, “Major League Baseball is so concerned over possible circumvention of the new posting agreement that is has asked Masahiro Tanaka’s Japanese club to provide written assurances it has no side deal with the ace pitcher.”

MLB’s request is in response to comments that Tanaka made after Rakuten announced they would post him this winter. Tanaka told the Japanese media that he plans on “giving back” to the Golden Eagles with financial support and donations. Masahiro Tanaka added he plans on helping Rakuten update their facilities and stadium “to make sure the Eagles are a team the Tohoku fans continue to love.”

Bill Shaikin and Dylan Hernandez reported MLB has sent a letter to Rakuten, via the NPB office, “to ensure Rakuten got no more than the allowable $20 million for making Tanaka available to MLB clubs.” Pat Courtney confirmed a Japanese report to Shaikin and Hernandez that a letter was indeed sent.

According to the LA Times, it is unknown how the Rakuten Golden Eagles will respond to the letter.

Masahiro Tanaka could be looking for at least a five-year, $100 million contract according to a report from Tanaka could also require housing, moving expenses, English lessons, an interpreter and trainer.

Multiple reports over the weekend indicated the Yankees are one of many teams that have already contacted Casey Close about Masahiro Tanaka. A report from indicated the Yankees will likely wait until next week before making a formal offer.

As previously reported, the Red Sox are in the mix for Masahiro Tanaka. But the extent of their interest has been, and still is, in question. Nick Cafardo spelled out why the World Series Champions should be heavily involved in the bidding for Tanaka in his report.

Nick Cafardo pointed out the Red Sox could use Tanaka due to the fact “they have veteran pitchers in the final year or two years remaining on their deals.” Plus, those pitchers will be coming off the payroll that would give the Red Sox room to add Tanaka.

Reports have indicated the Cubs and Yankees will be the most aggressive for Masahiro Tanaka. But the Dodgers, Angels, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Giants and possibly the Rangers will be involved in the process. The Twins and Blue Jays have varying degrees of interest, but the Phillies are not interested in pursuing Tanaka according to Jim Bowden. The D-Backs’ are willing to fly to Japan to meet with Masahiro Tanaka according to a report on Hardball Talk, a trip has not been scheduled.

Buster Olney passed on comments from Casey McGehee about his former teammate, Masahiro Tanaka. McGehee played with Tanaka last season.

“You could see from day one he’s kind of a different animal. He’s unbelievably competitive. The jury is out on how many pitches he has, but he’s got at least three that are weapons, not just pitches he uses here and there. He can lean on any one of his fastball-slider-split at any time. His forkball is the best one I’ve seen. A lot of guys over there throw one. He’s the one guy that was able to manipulate it and have it do what he wanted. He could throw it for strikes. He could take speed off of it. He could throw it harder. He could bounce it. He was really special with that pitch. Whoever gets him … it’s going to be money well spent.”

News and Notes

According to a report from Korea, multiple Korean teams are interested in signing Suk-Min Yoon if he is unable to catch on with a Major League team this winter. According to the report, the Kia Tigers, LG Twins, SK Wyverns and Lotte Giants are interested in signing Yoon. The Cubs are one of a handful of Major League teams that have been connected to Yoon this off-season. Scott Boras is trying to find him a job with a big league team after the right-hander went back home last week without a contract.

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  • raymondrobertkoenig

    Not sure how what Tanaka might want to do with his money is any of MLB’s business.

    • triple

      Yeah, I think that’s quite a mess this is turning into. Maybe he’ll reconsider coming to America. Who cares what he does with his money. If he wants to sign a $100 or $150 million contract and donate $30 mil or whatever to his old team, why should that be anybody else’s business? I do understand the logistics of some team making a deal to earn leverage in signing him, and why that is wrong, but it’s his own personal and financial decision to do what he wants with his money. Why can’t he declare on his own what he will do? Personally, I feel like he should fight to have that clause in his contract that he signs. Why should the MLB tell him what he can and can’t do with his money.

      • JasonPen

        I think the MLB wants to prevent Japanese teams from requiring the player to pay. It may have been an agreement that he ‘donate’ millions of dollars in order to be released from his contract.

        • Theboardrider

          That’s a good point. My first reaction was that it’s ridiculous to tell him what to do, but yes, knowing Japanese culture it could become as if the club is his “elder,” and he owes them for making him who he is. It’s a slippery slope that could make future players think twice about leaving.

          • DWalker

            That would be my belief as well. its all too much of a tight package that the eagles suddenly do an about face and decide to post him and right away he announces he will be “giving back” a substantial amount tot he team. I would expect this will be the new order of buisness for these high profile postings. Again though, it might shoot them in the foot and we’ll see more Japanese talent simply skip to the MiLB/MLBsystem without going through the Japanese system if they ask for too much.

          • Theboardrider

            How would that work? Do we scout Japanese high school?

            Does anyone know the career path of a Japanese player? Do they go to their major leagues straight out of gigh school? Minors? College?

          • Dorasaga

            Yea, we do. Koshien (high school tournament) stars, such as Tanaka and Matsuzaka, at age 19 went on from school to pitch more than 180 innings as a pro rookie (out of a 120 to 144 game season).

            MLB clubs scout those alright (they are on two or three national TV channels for the tournaments, so, not that hard). The problem is with the “Tazawa Punishment.” Ask Theo Epstein about it, how he started all those. Anyway, the baseball society, amateur and pro alike, worked together to write down rules: forbid any player out of high school or college to sign with a MLB club without going through Japan’s NPB pro system FIRST.

            How enforced? Player can’t return to Japan and play organized baseball sponsored by either organizations in three or so many years after they return (if the player ever). I reckon the baseball society still considers a betrayal (a threat) by aspiring young men to not play for their domestic market first. Business generates greed, human nature as usual.

            Just to show you the other end of their spectrum: There was this one Japanese, I forgot if his parents raised him in the States or not. He went to college here, and played NCAA. He was either not drafted by MLB clubs, or he was released before he went to a low minor team. So, a Japanese team, I believe it was the Lotte Marines (around Tokyo) that signed him. He didn’t need a try-out. Some scout liked him, so there he went. He never made it to the big league there.

            But he won’t be punished. NPB’s punishment rule only applies to export, not import.

      • 07GreyDigger

        My biggest worry in the whole NPB/MLB posting agreement is how it affects the World Baseball Classic!

  • jtrain23

    I get what is being discussed and I agree that the “back channels” need to be tightened to keep a team from giving more money by finding a loophole in the rules.
    I read Tanaka’s comments though and it seems that he is simply trying to help his former club and be sure that they have good facilities and put forth a good product for their fans. I think it is a good sign that he feels some allegiance to the team that gave him his professional start. Any other scenarios are simply speculation. If true, they need to be addressed but if Tanaka simply wants to give his personal money to his former team then he should be able to.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    Its Tanka’s money….let him do what he wants with it,……in other words…..MLB MYOB.

    • paulcatanese

      Agree, although its not his money just yet. But right, he should be able to do what he wants with it. And all of the points posted above are valid ones.

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  • BigJonLilJon

    Cubs need to front load the contract and a give a huge signing bonus. That way, he can do what he likes with HIS money!!

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