NEW YORK (AP) — The bidding for Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has begun.
All 30 major league teams were notified that the 30-day period to sign the star 25-year-old right-hander began at 8 a.m. EST Thursday, according to MLB spokesman Michael Teevan. Clubs have until 5 p.m. on Jan. 24 to attempt to reach an agreement with the ace.
If Tanaka and a major league team come to terms, that franchise is required to pay his Japanese club, the Rakuten Eagles, a posting fee, now capped at $20 million under a deal reached two weeks ago between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball. Under the old, no-limit system, the Texas Rangers paid over $50 million for the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish before the 2012 season.
Tanaka will be represented by Excel Sports Management during the process. Other Excel Sports clients include Dodgers two-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
Rakuten rejected the new posting system but was outvoted in balloting by Japan's 12 teams. The Japan Series champion then said it was going to retain Tanaka, whose rights it holds for two more seasons.
Eagles President Yozo Tachibana, however, changed course Wednesday, saying that Tanaka deserved a chance to play in the majors. Tachibana cited Tanaka's 24-0 regular-season record with a 1.27 ERA and his "outstanding contribution to the team" over seven seasons as reasons for choosing to post the player.
A day after throwing a complete game in a Game 6 loss in the Japan Series, Tanaka saved the clincher, bringing the first league championship to the team based in Sendai, which is still recovering from the devastation wrought by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.