What’s up with the posting system?

By Jim Allen

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the current state of the posting system negotiations and the system in general, and I’ll try to clarify those things I can.

1) The current hangup is not about Shohei Otani

Despite reports by @JonHeyman that players were concerned about the gap between Otani’s minimal compensation as an under-25 “CBAmateur” and the $20 million posting fee already agreed upon with Nippon Ham, any MLBPA member taking umbrage with that, deserves a kick in the ass.

When the union agreed with MLB to raise the age at which overseas professionals would be treated as amateurs from 23 to 25, it limited Otani’s earning power in 2018 to much less than the $20 million the Fighters could ask through this year. There was concern prior to Otani’s retaining an MLBPA-certified agent that he was not aware he was throwing away 100s of millions of dollars by going when he was 23.

But that is to be expected, since everyone in MLB and its related media elite KNEW Otani would not come this year, just as they knew water didn’t run uphill, because no one in MLB would do that. @Ken_Rosenthal said it, Jon Heyman said. You name him (with the exception of Barry Bloom @Boomskie) he probably said it. They knew. Except they didn’t.

It IS about Shohei Otani only because he’s the most intriguing player on the planet at this moment, and holding up his transfer gives the union something to draw attention to their objection — except they have been reluctant to say what those objections are in public.

2) The posting system proposed by MLB/MLBPA prevents Japanese teams from naming a price for their players.

This is Exhibit 1,405 of how much MLB hates free markets. The posting system used to be a kind of free market. The high bid in a closed auction that met or exceeded the posting fee asked by a player’s NPB team meant allowed one team a one month window to sign a player before his rights reverted to his Japanese team.

This was not very efficient. Two players, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Hisashi Iwakuma,  failed to reach contracts with the team that won their rights and returned to Japan. MLB teams didn’t like it because exorbitant posting fees didn’t fall under the luxury tax, which favored big-spending clubs. After $50 million fees to the Seibu Lions and Nippon Ham Fighters for Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, MLB was in mind to have to shell out a likely $100 million for Masahiro Tanaka – so it wanted a $20-million cap.

So while 10 of NPB’s teams held Rakuten steady, MLB stabbed the Eagles in the back, and Masahiro Tanaka was, however, able to negotiate with up to 30 teams before signing with the Yankees for $155 million – which was a good thing.

The newly proposed system, however, changes compensation for teams willing to part with players under contract to 15 percent of the total contract offered to a posted player by an MLB team. This would mean Japanese teams must relinquish their limited right to ask for up to $20 million and instead accept whatever their 15 percent cut is.

3) When we slap you, you’ll take it and like it.

According to Ken Rosenthal, and confirmed by other sources, the union is opposed to NPB being able to rescind a posting should it’s 15 percent fee falls below a number it is willing to accept. Since MLB agreed to this but the MLBPA is opposed, one can guess that this proposal was offered to NPB at the union’s request and rejected, quite reasonably by NPB.

The 15 percent cut would represent a modest increase for A-listers – Tanaka’s $155 million would have pulled in $23.25 million for Rakuten. But the Hiroshima Carp would have received $15.93 million instead of $20 million for Kenta Maeda.

4) There is a mysterious 20 percent figure that seems to be an issue

I have heard repeated reference to a 20 percent posting fee to teams posting those under-25 CBAmateurs, but how it is calculated, what it is based on and when it would be paid has not been clearly explained to me. The MLBPA appears opposed to this to.

5) The CBA and the new posting system appear to have been planned as a package last year.

At last year’s winter meetings, MLB made it perfectly clear that there would be no exception to Shohei Otani’s CBAmateur status should he try and come to the majors in 2018 – and they KNEW he wouldn’t. Yet, Barry Bloom told me then that there was an exemption in place for Otani. That exemption turned out to be an agreement with Nippon Ham that whatever changes might be made to the posting system, that Otani’s fee would still be $20 million.

The same top MLB executive who helped negotiate the CBA and told me at the 2016 winter meetings  Otani’s name never once came up in discussions about it, also told me that there was no way Otani would move to the majors in 2018, because you know, nobody would do that.

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