MLB pulls idea for new Japan system

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball is withdrawing its proposal for a new bidding system with Japan, making it uncertain whether prized pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will be on the market this offseason.

MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred said Japanese officials had not acted quickly enough on MLB's proposal for a new agreement and that a new proposal will be forwarded.

"We warned them, told them if this sat too long, there could be shifting winds out there, and suffice it to say there are shifting winds," Manfred said.

Under the so-called "posting system," agreed to in December 1998 by MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball, more than a dozen Japanese players have moved to the majors before the nine years of service time they would have needed to become free agents in their home country. Under the system, MLB clubs submit bids, and the highest bidder has 30 days to reach an agreement with the player.

Boston obtained pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka from the Seibu Lions before the 2007 season for $51,111,111 and agreed to a $52 million, six-year contract with the right-hander. Texas got pitcher Yu Darvish from the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters before the 2012 season for $51,703,411 and gave him a $56 million, six-year deal. Darvish finished second this week in American League Cy Young Award voting.

"I think the concerns with the system was it was a blind bidding process that led to inflated numbers," Manfred said, "and that those inflated numbers make that market unavailable to a broad cross-section of our teams."

MLB's proposal had called for a player's price to be determined at a figure somewhere between the No. 1 and No. 2 bids, and would have added a penalty fee of 2.5 percent of that figure if the club with the winning bid failed to sign the player, two people who attended the meeting said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

At the meeting, several officials objected to the proposal and suggested the posting fee be included in a team's payroll for the luxury tax, the sources said. Instituting such a provision would require an agreement from the Major League Baseball Players Association, whose contract runs through the 2016 season. Players would not be likely to agree to such a change.

After the discussion went on for a while, the matter ultimately was tabled.

Tanaka, a 25-year-old right-hander, went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA during the regular season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan's Pacific League.

Without a new agreement, players from Japan's Central and Pacific Leagues would not be able to sign with MLB until they had nine years of service time.

"If that's the way we get Japanese professionals, I think that the 30 major league clubs are prepared to live with that result," Manfred said.