It seemed like things were starting to move in a positive direction on the Masahiro Tanaka front. The new posting system between MLB and NPB was agreed upon and officially announced, and earlier this week Tanaka told his team that he wanted to pitch in MLB in 2014. Despite their waffling on the decision to post him and their clear desire not to, it was reasonable to expect that the Rakuten Golden Eagles would eventually give in and honor Tanaka's wishes, not wanting to set a bad precedent for future players who would want to make the jump to the top level of competition.
But in the immortal words of Lee Corso, not so fast, my friend! A report by Ken Belson of the NY Times, citing multiple Japanese newspaper sources, states that Rakuten has decided not to post Tanaka and instead will retain control over him for the 2014 season. Rather than limit themselves to the $20 million max posting fee and risk losing more in stadium and merchandise revenues by not having Tanaka next season, the Eagles appear to prefer maintaining their team control over Tanaka, as is their right, and maximizing their own revenue potential.
Can't say I blame them. If I had just been told I was only eligible to recoup $20 mil for giving up my best player when some earlier reports estimated that I could get upwards of $100 mil, I'd probably make the call to hold onto him too. This is the risk MLB and Bud Selig took when they decided to listen to their small market teams' complaints and set that ridiculous bid ceiling and now nobody gets the chance to add Tanaka to their rotation in 2014 and MLB misses out on a big revenue-generating opportunity. Because making sure that clubs who don't have the money to even make Tanaka a serious contract offer at least have the opportunity to not make Tanaka a serious contract offer is more important than making sure Tanaka gets to MLB and ends up on the team that makes the biggest financial commitment to land him.
Obviously I'm talking about the Yankees here, but I don't want to turn this into another huge rant against the have nots in MLB. It's sad and pathetic that they continue to come crying to Grandpa Bud with their empty plates out like Oliver Twist, all while having their back pockets stuffed with cash they had handed to them by the bigger market teams (cough, cough the Yankees cough, cough). But that's life in today's MLB and today's sports world in general. Parity at the expense of true competition and even playing fields at the expense of legitimate and well-earned competitive advantages are the most important things. In the next 10-15 years, I'm sure we'll be up to 8 teams from each league making the playoffs and there will be a big 2-day event prior to the start of the Wild Card round to celebrate all the other teams who didn't make it but still tried hard.
The more pertinent issue now is what the Yankees do to address their rotation if Tanaka is truly off the board. The report earlier this week about them being willing to fill spots from within rather than sign the Ubaldos Jimenez and Matts Garza of the world sounded like a smokescreen to me, but I guess now we'll see how true that claim was. Jimenez and Garza have their glaring areas of concern, as dooes pretty much every other free agent starter still on the market, but is a full season of David Phelps or Vidal Nuno really going to be better than what they could offer? Will the Yankees willingly go that route, essentially downgrading their rotation in the process, and neuter the impact of all their other moves to beef up the lineup?
The deck has been stacked against the Yankees and their big bankroll for years now, and we're all well aware of how poorly they've adapted to those changes. If Rakuten really does plan to hold onto Tanaka, and they have control over him through the end of 2015 by the way, it will be another big hurdle thrown in front of the Yankees that they'll have to find a way to get over to continue their quest to rebuild their roster and make it back to the postseason.
(Photo courtesy of the AP/Kyodo News)