The offseason hot stove just incinerated with the official posting of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and the start to the bidding commencing today. The posting came on the heels of a roller coaster battle between Nippon Profession Baseball (Japan’s equivalent of MLB) and MLB and the realigned posting system of players. With the posting fee now set at a $20 million maximum all MLB teams are able to get into the mix of bidding.
This is a huge deal to small market teams who generally had to watch quality players from Japan go to the big market teams because of an uncapped posting fee. Big market teams could post upwards of $75 million just to exclusively be able to talk to the player being posted. If the player and team could not come to terms the posting fee was returned and the player would have to be reposted the next season.
Small market teams like the A’s do not have the financially resources readily available to both pay a high posting fee and absorb a big contract at the same time. In the times the small market teams can afford the posting fee they cannot afford the contract. Think Hisashi Iwakuma a few years back (now with the Seattle Mariners). The A’s paid a $43 million posting fee, but could not come to terms on a contract.
With the posting fee cap set at $20 million now all teams are able to afford both the fees and contracts. Why does this matter? Masahiro Tanaka is what matters.
Tanaka had a season for the ages in 2013 pitching to a 24-0 record with a 1.27 ERA and a .943 WHIP. There certainly is something to be said about the offensive dominance MLB pitchers face compared to the NPB pitchers, but those numbers are incredibly impressive at any level sans Justin Verlander facing Little Leaguers.
Why else does he matter? Most Free Agent pitchers are waiting for Tanaka to settle on a contract so they have an idea of what teams are in on them and which teams are not. The Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, and other big market teams all seem to have the rumors swirling around them regarding Tanaka’s services, but with all teams being able to pay the posting fee surprise teams could begin to surface.
The question for A’s fans is does the Green and Gold realistically have a chance to sign the “can’t miss” pitcher of the Free Agent market this offseason? The answer is yes. With the extra money coming from the MLB television revenue deal the A’s have money to spend especially if GM Billy Beane explains to the ownership group that it is a worthwhile expenditure. Expect the A’s to pay the posting fee considering it is refunded if Tanaka signs elsewhere. From there anything can happen. Just like with Yoenis Céspedes, never count the Green and Gold out with international Free Agents.