NPB to Review the Posting System

» 18 May 2011 » In nichibei »

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, ├é┬áRakuten’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?


Trackback URL

  1. Patrick
    18/05/2011 at 9:02 am Permalink

    So something like the system that is in place for Major League Soccer or a slight tweak on that?

  2. Patrick
    18/05/2011 at 9:36 am Permalink

    Speaking of their own agreements, here are the names nobody remembers.

    Shane Dennis
    Jason Thompson

    Can you tell who they are?

  3. Patrick
    18/05/2011 at 10:40 am Permalink

    Thompson rings a bell, but it’s a pretty common name.

  4. Patrick
    18/05/2011 at 11:10 am Permalink

    Those are the players the Padres sent to the Marines for Irabu.

  5. Patrick
    18/05/2011 at 1:05 pm Permalink

    Allowing anyone other than the highest bidder in the posting system to negotiate with the player is the equivalent to saying, “We’re greedy bastards and all we care about is cashing in before the player becomes a free agent.”

    A much simpler solution is to grant players de facto free agency rights to leave for MLB, and then have the Japanese team receive a 20% (?) cut of the player’s MLB contract if the player signs with an MLB team. This, of course, could be abused by players/teams/agents via creative contractual agreements and clauses, but it’s cleaner than anything else I’ve seen thus far. (20% obviously would yield smaller payments to the teams, but there’s no good reason the team should get 50%, as essentially happened with Matsuzaka, Igawa, et al.)

  6. Patrick
    19/05/2011 at 8:14 am Permalink

    This is exactly the kind of comment I was referring to in the article. Nobody made the Yankees and Red Sox bid those amounts, they did it on their own.

    Why is it greedy to want to get something in return for a player you know you’re going to lose? Is it greedy for MLB teams to trade impending free agents?

  7. Patrick
    19/05/2011 at 10:16 am Permalink

    Especially when Japanese teams are not currently compensated by MLB teams. This is the root cause of the Iwakuma’s case.

  8. Patrick
    20/05/2011 at 12:36 am Permalink

    I posted the following in our forum after the Iwakuma thing played out.

    “At the end of the day, these players aren’t free agents so they’ll always be at the mercy of the team that controls them. Competitive issues aside (i.e. only rich MLB teams or teams with special access to NPB teams will have access to NPB talent) I think the fairest system is one which allows NPB teams to independently negotiate transfer fees with MLB teams, but giving NPB players a right to veto moves out of the country. So if the Marines try to sell Irabu to the Padres again, he’ll be able to refuse unless it was to the Yankees. Ideally NPB teams would just let the player in question negotiate with any MLB team, and after that negotiation is done, have the teams negotiate a transfer fee. The player and his agent could be told beforehand what the NPB team would be looking for in compensation.

    The simplest solution would just eliminate the posting system and just lock players into their contract until free agency, unless they negotiate themselves a opt-out clause like many foreigner players. NPB teams might lose compensation but there would probably be more incentive to try to please the player into staying in Japan.

    But if Japanese players want a shot at MLB while they’re in their prime they need to consider going the Junichi Tazawa route, or more aggressively bargain for shorter service time requirements for free agency.”