Free Agency

» 24 June 2008 » In npb »

The NPB players union is meeting on the 25th to discuss a new proposal that would change the rules of free agency. The key change being discussed is a reduction in the amount of service time needed to move to a different team in Japan. If this initiative passes, attaining domestic free agency would require eight years of service time, while international free agency would still require nine. For players drafted out of college or the industrial leagues in 2007, domestic free agency would require seven years of service time.

Free Agency rules are notoriously strict in Japan. “Nine years service time” is defined as 145 days of being active on the top team’s roster for nine seasons. Time missed for injuries is deducted from the total. Teams signing domestic free agents are also required to compensate the player’s former team with either money or a player and less money. The cash compensation is rather steep: either 1.2 times the player’s previous year’s salary. Alternatively, the new team can choose to let the player’s former team take a player from an unprotected list, and 0.8 times the free agent’s previous salary.

Players moving to MLB are obviously not subject to these restrictions, so there’s an imbalance for free agents. There was very little risk, for example, for the Red Sox in signing Hideki Okajima as they were only responsible for his salary. An NPB team signing Okajima would have had to pay his salary, some cash, and possibly a player. My gut feeling is that the new free agency rules proposal is intended to help keep Japanese stars in NPB. I agree with the effort, but perhaps a better approach would be to lessen some of the restrictions on Japanese teams signing free agents, or negotiate a compensation framework with MLB for NPB free agents.

For more information, Sanspo, Wikipedia (both Japanese)


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  1. Patrick
    BT Charpied
    24/06/2008 at 11:15 am Permalink


    Would you be able to comment — either here or in an article — about the actual likelihood of Yu Darvish coming to the majors. I have read many, many conflicting reports about his mindset on MLB. Some reports claim he is eager to test himself against the highest level of competition out there, while other reports claim that he has zero yearning to leave Japan.

    Granted, in the end the decision might not be his if his team wishes to post him and reap the reward of what is speculated to be 2x Daisuke Matsuzaka’s posting price.

    You just don’t come across players as young as Darvish that have this high of a ceiling. He’s already dominating and still has room to grow. I’d give just about anything to see him in MLB, especially considering many articles claim the Yankees are whispering sweet nothings into the ear of Nippon Ham management.


  2. Patrick
    24/06/2008 at 11:59 am Permalink

    I think it’s inevitable but a long way off. I have Darvish on my to-do list (, so look out for a post on that in the future.

  3. Patrick
    BT Charpied
    24/06/2008 at 12:41 pm Permalink

    “I think it’s inevitable but a long way off.”

    My fantasy baseball team weeps at this news 😉

    It is certainly fun keeping up with these players though. Keep up the great work.

  4. Patrick
    25/06/2008 at 5:24 pm Permalink

    Now there is going to be more discrepancy between the rich (Yomiuri/Softbank/Hanshin) and the poor (Rakuten/Hiroshima). What needs to happen is a change in the draft structure (worst team picking 1st) but that seems unlikely because teams like Hiroshima would always be paying high price for 1/2 overall picks (because they have no money to retain/acquire good players) and teams like Yomiuri dont want to pick 12th. What really needs to happen is a complete separation of clubs from their parent companies but the clubs are there to promote their parent companies so that seems even more unlikely. People still consider baseball the number one sport in the country but the way they are operating, I would not be surprised to see soccer overtake baseball in the near future.

  5. Patrick
    25/06/2008 at 8:07 pm Permalink

    Nice timing. I just posted an article about some changes to free agency that address some of the level playing field issues. The draft is another story though.


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