The posting system — the agreement that governs player movement between the teams of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan and Major League Baseball in America — looks like it’ll be changing this winter. We tackled the reasons why this might happen during the first round of rumors, but it’s worth revisiting now that more particulars are coming to light.
One rule change, reported by Dylan Hernandez, highlights the reason why Japan’s teams are interested in altering the status quo. The Dodgers writer for the LA Times reported yesterday:
Under proposed posting rules, teams that win auction on Japanese player and fail to sign him will be fined, according to reports in Japan.
— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) November 12, 2013
As you can see, there’s a focus on actually posting a player once a bid is accepted. This is probably because the posting process is an uncomfortable one in Japan. Basically a player has said that he’d like to leave… and if that player doesn’t reach an agreement with the American team — like Hisashi Iwakuma with the Athletics in 2010 in particular — there’s some egg on the face for both parties in Japan as they have to prepare for a new season together after agreeing to part. After Oakland failed to sign Iwakuma, the player’s agent accused the team of not being sincere in their offer, and that feeling must have been shared in Japan if this rule change is being considered.
The other rule change that came to light on Monday may be the carrot that brings the American teams to the table. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reports:
To clarify on Japanese posting, the top bidding team wins exclusive negotiating rights, but has to pay only the average of the top 2 bids.
— Ken Davidoff (@KenDavidoff) November 11, 2013
Looking backwards, this is a sexy proposition and looks like it might save American teams money on future bids. Details on losing bids are scarce, since the NPB team usually doesn’t have a reason to divulge that information. But losing American teams have leaked some numbers in the case of the biggest successful posts in the past — perhaps to let their fanbase know they tried — so we can at least make this incomplete table:
|Player||Winning Bid||Alleged Second Bid||Revised Bid||Source||Rumored Loser|
|Yu Darvish (’11)||$51.7m||$16m||$34m||Buster Olney||CHC|
|Hiroyuki Nakajima (’11)||$2.5m||$1m||$1.8m||Anon|
|Hisashi Iwakuma (’10)||$19.1m||$8.5m||$13.8m||Anon|
|Tsuyoshi Nishioka (’10)||$5m||$2m||$3.5m||WEEI||BOS|
|Kei Igawa (’06)||$26m||$15.5m||$21m||ESPN/AP||NYM|
|Daisuke Matsuzaka (’06)||$51.1m||$39.5m||$45m||ESPN/AP||NYM|
In the highest profile cases, this rule change looks like it would have saved American teams some considerable dough. The Yankees and Kei Igawa may have had a different relationship. Maybe Hisashi Iwakuma would be on the the Athletics right now.
The problem with this line of thinking is, of course, that American teams will have the chance to adjust to this new rule. And once they adjust, it’s unclear if this will change much. If your management has determined that a player (perhaps Masahiro Tanaka) is worth a $50 million posting fee, what would keep your management team from throwing an extra $5 million into the deal and assuming that their winning bid will be suppressed by the second-place bid, perhaps to the tune of $5m dollars?
On the other hand, lets say that there’s been a reaction to the Daisuke deal, and that second-place bids have been significantly behind the winning bids in the years since. We don’t have enough information to say that’s not true. And if that’s the case, the downward revision may be significant even in the face of higher number one bids brought on by the rule change.
According to these short reports, it doesn’t seem like the second-place bid actually has a place at the table with the player. And so the player won’t gain any leverage in order to get a better contract for himself, or play in a different city. But! If the posting fees actually do go down, the player should get a bigger slice of the pie. Even if some of the money goes against the marketing budget and some of the money goes against the payroll, on some level it’s one outlay for one player. And if the posting fees are mitigated, the player could be eligible for more of that outlay.
These rumored rules don’t quite have the same scope as the first round of rumors suggested they might. And yet, altering the process in these ways might actually serve to make sure that posted players actually post, that posting fees go down, and that the players get a larger piece of the pie. Those changes — in tandem — should make the three main parties at the negotiating table happy. Three happy parties make these rumors seem likely to become reality.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.