According to a report in the New York Times, Japanese superstar pitcher Masahiro Tanaka won’t be coming to the big leagues this year after all.
Tanaka’s Japanese team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, have decided not to allow him to be posted for major league teams to bid on as a free agent. On Thursday morning, several Japanese newspapers were reporting that Tanaka would not be allowed to leave for Major League Baseball after all, despite his claim that he wanted to go.
Rakuten owns Tanaka’s rights through 2015 and the franchise has the right to retain him if it wants to. It appears the team made the decision to keep its star pitcher.
The Eagles will now likely offer Tanaka two or three times his current $4 million salary, which could make him the highest paid Japanese pitcher in history. Team officials are reportedly set to meet with Tanaka on Friday to inform him of their decision.
By not allowing Tanaka to be posted, the Golden Eagles will pass up as much as $20 million they would receive from whichever major league team wound up signing the 25-year-old hurler.
Last season, Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.24 ERA while leading Rakuten to the 2013 Japan Series. He is a five-time Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star and in 2011 and 2013 won the Eiji Sawamura Award, given annually to the best starting pitcher in the NPB.
Some scouts have claimed that Tanaka would be the best Japanese pitcher to ever arrive in Major League Baseball and a few teams were already socking money away to make a run at him. Several general managers agreed that his contract likely would have surpassed $100 million.
Now it appears big league teams will have to find different directions to go in instead of waiting on Tanaka.