Masahiro Tanaka’s potential move to U.S. could be delayed

ORLANDO, Fla. — Masahiro Tanaka’s anticipated move to the United States could be in danger, as the Japanese right-hander appears to be caught in the middle of an escalating game of chicken between baseball officials on opposite sides of the world. Teams such as the Dodgers, Angels and New York Yankees figure to be watching closely, as Tanaka’s status could affect their off-season plans.

Major League Baseball had extracted concessions from Nippon Professional Baseball that would help decrease the costs of Japanese imports. But with NPB taking longer than expected to receive formal approval from its players’ union on a new transfer system, MLB said Thursday after the owners’ meetings that the current proposal might no longer be on the table.

“We told them that if this sat too long, there could be shifting winds out there and, suffice to say, there are shifting winds,” said Rob Manfred, MLB’s chief operating officer.

Manfred said MLB would amend its proposal. In other words, it wants NPB to make further concessions.

Without a new agreement between MLB and NPB, Tanaka will not be able to pitch in the United States next season. Even if a deal is reached, this latest development is certain to delay the auctioning of Tanaka, forcing teams to decide whether to wait for the 25-year-old to become available or pursue lesser pitchers on the free-agent market.


Tanaka still hasn’t officially declared his intention to come to the United States. And according to agents who want to represent him, he still hasn’t selected an agent.

Many MLB owners want to entirely abolish the posting system, which they blame for the rising costs of Japanese players. To acquire Yu Darvish, the Texas Rangers paid a total of $111.7 million for his contract and posting fee — the fee the Rangers paid to his Japanese team for the exclusive rights to negotiate with him.

Without a posting system, the only current way in which an NPB player could come to the major leagues would be to accrue nine years of service time and become a free agent. Tanaka has pitched in NPB for seven seasons, meaning that if an agreement isn’t reached, the earliest he could come to the United States as a free agent would be after the 2015 season.

“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.

Manfred’s statements came on the same day the NPB players’ union accepted the terms of the new posting system. The union had previously opposed the deal because players were still limited to negotiating with one major league team. NPB’s 12 teams were expected to meet Monday to finalize the agreement.

Asked about the union’s move, Manfred said all he knew was that NPB wasn’t in position to formally accept the agreement.

MLB votes to expand replay

MLB moved toward expanding the use of instant replay next season, as owners voted unanimously Thursday to fund the proposed system.

“We’re going to have replay in 2014,” Commissioner Bud Selig said.

Under the new system, managers would be able to challenge almost every umpire’s call outside of ball and strike calls.

Rules have to be finalized, then approved by the players’ and umpires’ unions.

Manfred said after a manager challenges a call, the play in question will be reviewed in New York by current and former umpires. The umpires would remain on the field during the challenge, as a headset would be brought out to the crew chief so he could be in communication with reviewers.

Manfred wouldn’t say how many challenges each manager would be granted per game, but stated it would be no more than two. A manager wouldn’t lose a challenge after a successful challenge.

Twitter: @dylanohernandez