The long wait is over. Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will indeed be allowed to leave his contract with the Rakuten Golden Eagles to pursue an opportunity in Major League Baseball.
Rakuten had previously refused to post Tanaka because of MLB's new rule capping the international posting fee to $20 million. If you recall, it cost the Red Sox just over $51 million to bid on Daisuke Matsuzaka prior to 2007 and the Rangers even more to earn exclusive negotiating rights with Yu Darvish before the 2012 season.
The Japanese league approved the new posting system but Rakuten declined to let Tanaka out of his deal, and even began planning a record contract of $7.7 million USD for the 25-year-old right-hander.
Early Wednesday morning, Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana announced the change of heart.
Tanaka went a ridiculous 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season in the Japan Pacific League. Over the last three years in Japan he was 53-9 with a 1.44 ERA.
The Cubs and Yankees are viewed as favorites for Tanaka's services. Our Jim Salisbury wrote Tuesday in his holiday mailbag that it is unlikely the Phillies pursue Tanaka, who is line for a $100 million contract.
For 30 days from the time a player is posted, any MLB team can attempt to sign the player. It pays the posting fee only if it signs the player. Under the new rules, a Japanese club may make players available between Nov. 1 and Feb. 1. A player who is not signed may not be posted again until the following Nov. 1.
Dodgers done after adding relievers?
The Dodgers had a busy Christmas week, signing relievers Chris Perez, J.P. Howell and Jamey Wright.
Perez, the former Indians closer, signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal with L.A., but could earn as much as $8 million through incentives if he becomes the closer, according to the Orange County Register.
Perez has 123 saves and a 3.19 ERA since 2010, but struggled last season as his fastball flattened out, posting a 4.33 ERA and losing his closer's gig in Cleveland late in the season.
Howell, the 30-year-old lefty specialist you might remember from the Rays in the 2008 World Series, made good on his $2.85 million salary with the Dodgers in 2013 by pitching to a 2.03 ERA and allowing lefties to hit a measly .164. His new deal is for two years, $11.25 million with a third-year option.
Wright, the 39-year-old ageless wonder, returns to the team he spent 2012 with. Wright was mostly a starter from 1996-2006, but since 2008 he's pitched in relief in 307 of 308 appearances. He's been especially good lately, posting a 3.32 ERA the last three seasons for Seattle, L.A. and Tampa Bay. Wright has pitched 18 seasons for 10 different teams.
After the flurry of moves, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told MLB.com he's "pretty much done" making moves. The Dodgers' payroll will again be north of $210 million, and L.A. will need to save some money to pay Clayton Kershaw, a free agent in 2015 who will surely command the largest free-agent contract ever for a pitcher.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.