How posting works
This comes up every time a Japanese player is rumored to be heading over (now with Matsuzaka), so here’s a quick overview. Not every Japanese player goes through this process. Players who are free agents in Japan can sign wherever they want. Players like Ichiro, who are still under team control (and team control in Japan is much longer and odious than MLB), must go through the posting process. Using Ichiro’s case as an example, here’s how this works.
(prelude: player asks their team to be posted, and team decides they’ll do so)
1. Japanese team notifies the Japanese Commissioner’s Office that they’ll let Ichiro be posted.
2. Japanese Commissioner notifies MLB
3. MLB notifies all teams that Ichiro is available
4. Teams have four days to submit a bid. The bid is how much they’ll pay the team not for the player but the chance to negotiate a contract with the player. The Mariners submit a bid of $12.5m.
5. The Japanese team, Orix, is informed of the highest bidder, the Mariners
6. The Japanese team has four days to accept or reject the winning bid
7. They make a decision:
If they accept, the winning team has 30 days to agree to a contract with the posted player
If they reject, no deal. They can’t then shop him to the second-highest bidding team or anything.
In Ichiro’s case, Orix accepts the posting offer, and the Mariners begin discussing contract terms with Ichiro.
8. Then the player and the winning team negotiate, and one of two things happens:
If the winning team and player can come to an agreement, the player signs and reports to spring training next season, and the Japanese team gets the posting fee. The Mariners and Ichiro agreed, and he signed his original 2001 deal.
If the winning team and player can’t come to an agreement, the player returns to the team that controls his rights, and the Japanese team does not get the posting fee. The player then waits for next year or to become a normal FA, when he can go where he wants
This is pretty bad for the player, who already has a tough lot as a Japanese player compared to his MLB peers. There’s also potential for abuse by MLB teams playing games with each other.