A Thought on Posting Fees for Asian Players
A few days ago I wrote a post commenting on the fact that MLB is trying to force South Korea’s KBO to accept an $8 million cap on posted KBO players. Today I read at the end of an mlbtraderumors.com article on the top prospective free agents for next off-season a statement to the effect that Shohei Otani won’t be posted next off-season, but if he were, he would totally blow up mlbtraderumors’ list.
I think the odds of Otani being posted by his current team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, next off-season and pitching in MLB in 2017 are roughly the same as the odds of my pitching in MLB in 2017. With the $20 million cap now in place on posting fees, I just don’t see why an NPB team wouldn’t hold onto a top player for the full eight seasons, unless (1) the team is one of NPB’s four or five bottom-feeders and really needs the $20 million now, or (2) the player performs so well in NPB, like Masahiro Tanaka did in 2013, when he went 24-0 and helped his team, the less well-to-do and usually out of contention Rakuten Golden Eagles, win the Japan Series, that the team looks bad to the Japanese baseball public by standing in the way of the player moving up to MLB’s much greater riches and fame.
Here’s a proposal that would make it more likely that the top NPB players would come to MLB sooner: raise the posting cap by $5 million for each season before the end of year 8 that an NPB team is willing to post their superstar. In other words, if a team is willing to post its best player after seven NPB seasons, the team would get a maximum posting fee of $25 million, and if after six seasons, the team would get a max posting fee of $30 million, etc. All but the three truly wealthy NPB teams would certainly find this a strong incentive to post their superstars sooner than they otherwise would.
One reason for the current cap is that MLB feels that it allows more MLB teams to compete for the best NPB players. I doubt that is true, since at the end of the day, the richest MLB teams are still going to make the biggest contract offers, and the posting fee plus contract amounts are going to bigger than under the old system, since there will be more MLB teams competing to sign the player, instead of just the team that made the highest posting fee bid.
The real reason for the current cap probably has more to do with the fact that the MLBPA hated the old system since almost half of the player’s value went to the NPB team, rather than the player. Under the new system, the most elite NPB players get the lion’s share of the value for their future services, in Tanaka’s case almost 90%.
My proposal addresses this concern, however. Every year sooner that a Shohei Otani or Shintaro Fujinami gets to sell his services to MLB is going to be worth a lot more to the player than the $5 million he loses to his old team as a higher posting fee. Nippon Ham posted Yu Darvish much sooner than they had to because they got a $51.7 million posting fee for his services, which was realistically as high as it was going to get, given the time value of money and the fact that Darvish was only going to get older and put more mileage on his arm before earning an MLB salary.
Higher posting fees would certainly incentivize NPB teams for posting their superstars sooner than they otherwise have to to avoid losing them to true NPB free agency.