NPB to Review the Posting System
Japan’s professional baseball executive committee held a meeting in Tokyo on May 16th. Among other things, the Rakuten organization’s proposal to another look at the notorious posting system was accepted.
The posting system is actually not among my favorite discussion topics. Much of the time when I’m asked about it, there seems to be a subtext of “don’t you think the system needs to change because the (insert AL East big-budget team here) wasted a bunch of money on it?” The last time I wrote about it was last year, after the Hisashi Iwakuma situation resolved itself, over at the at my other blogging home. Without rehashing that article, the gist of my position is that a lot of things have to go right for a posting to be considered a success for all sides.
Anyway, according to Kyodo News via Sanspo, Rakuten’s specific suggestion was to award negotiating rights to the top three bidding MLB teams. This proposal strikes me as interesting for three reasons: 1) on the surface it seems rather player-friendly 2) Rakuten suggesting this makes me think that they wanted to get some kind of compensation for losing Iwakuma 3) it’s exactly what Don Nomura suggested when the Iwakuma negotiations hit troubled waters.
Looking back at the Iwakuma situation, we’ll never know how things would have worked out if this rule had been in place, but I think it would have increased the odds of Iwakuma being in an MLB uniform this season. Minnesota finished a distant second to Oakland’s $19m with a $7.7m bid, but who knows if they would have had better results at the negotiating table? At the very least, they would have had an obvious advantage over Oakland in being able to commit more of their total budget towards the contract offer.
More reflectively, the whole process could have played out differently had this rule been in place. Maybe the A’s wouldn’t have bid quite as much for Iwakuma if they would have had a chance to sign him without being the high bidder. Maybe they would have made a different contract offer if they were going to have to compete with other teams. Iwakuma and Nomura would have certainly negotiated differently, knowing there were alternatives.
Having thought through the Iwakuma situations, the changes I’d make to the idea would be to grant some kind of priority negotiating window to the top bidder, and to keep the names of the second and third highest bidders sealed until the end of that window. That would offer an incentive to being the highest bidder, and put a reasonable limit the player’s negotiating leverage (or rather, a bit of a dis-incentive on being the third bidder).
But that would further complicate an already clunky system, and result in a long, drawn-out process. And after writing all this, I’ve reached a point where I’m wondering why the posting system is necessary. Why not set up some kind of a transfer period each offseason, and let NPB teams and MLB teams negotiate their own transfer agreements?