Daisuke Matsuzaka, posting, and the M’s
Assume that he posts, for purposes of this discussion. I’m going to start re-posting “How Posting Works” almost entirely
(prelude: player asks their team to be posted, and team decides theyâ€™ll do so)
1. Japanese team notifies the Japanese Commissionerâ€™s Office that theyâ€™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 theyâ€™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 told only of the highest bid amount. Here, it’s the Mariners at $12.5m.
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 canâ€™t then shop him to the second-highest bidding team or anything.
In Ichiroâ€™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 canâ€™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
Dave’s 2006 Offseason Plan had the M’s paying $25m to win the bidding war, and signing him to a 3y, $30m deal.
There are a couple of issues that come into play now:
– The Yankees may be gripped with post-season insanity and capable of doing anything
– Teams sometimes handle posting fees as if it’s not real money
The M’s for years made a strange-seeming argument that for tax reasons, posting fees and contracts for players who’d never been in affiliated baseball (Japanese free agents or posted players, Cuban refugees) didn’t count against payroll or player development budgets. They’ve changed their tune on this recently.
– And yet, it is real money
Ownership groups don’t look at a $30m expenditure and shrug because it’s a special expenditure
– Posting fees aren’t currently, so far as I can tell, counted in any way against the salary cap
This makes chasing Japanese players even more interesting for a team like the Yankees. From their view, instead of paying top dollar for a free-agent pitcher that counts against the cap, they pay about the same amount of total money and get a top pitcher who only counts a little against the cap.
– That could change with the new collective bargaining agreement
Domestic players must regard those posting fees with a shake of the head. The player doesn’t get anything of it, and the winning team’s leverage over the posted player reduces their salary, which hurts other players (in citing comperables during salary negotiations) and the union (less money in dues). They may also believe that the money would otherwise be spent on players, making them all richer. Teams may not mind, either, in the “stop us before we pay free agents too much” way they cry for brakes on the cost of labor.
If this does get into the new agreement and posting fees count against the cap, pro-rated or however, it’ll be a huge blow to the Yankees chances, since they’re already over the cap and are facing escalating taxes each year.
When Ichiro posted, teams tried to put together fairly rational bids, with the M’s willing to ensure they topped everyone.
If Matsuzaka posts, it’s going to get a little crazy. Say you think Matsuzaka is worth $12m/year, which is top-tier free agent pitcher money, and your best guess is that he’s willing to sign for $10m/year over 3y if you win the bid. If you’re an entirely rational team, your bid is $6m.
If Matsuzaka posts, I anticipate every team who needs a pitcher will bid something, even knowing they’ll lose. If you put in a low-ball bid and lose, no harm. If you luck out and win, woo-hoo! You get to see what he wants, maybe even low-ball him yourself, and if he goes back to his team, you’re not out a penny. Bidding a couple of million dollars is like a free lottery ticket.
Figure that there will be a whole bunch of teams that bid $5-$6m. It doesn’t even matter who they are. A serious bid to win has to be at least $10m. The problem then is that you’ll have at leaset two teams willing to spend much, much more than that:
– Mariners (Japanese connection, rich, desperate for pitching, willing to bid on posting players)
– Yankees (richer, possibly more desperate, also willing to bid)
They’re going to consider how much it’s worth to win, how much it’s worth to deny him to another team, and what other things they could put the money to.
$25m? $30m? We’ve heard those floated already, as some of the process plays out in the media. You’re already starting to see teams float numbers and watch for responses and leaks from other organizations. Every team that wants to win is going to play this game as well as it can: the Yankees have a massive press advantage and can control the story (“Yankees to bid $30m says team official”), while the M’s might be able to play that game in Japan (“Matsuzaka to demand 5y/$55m deal”).
While it’s worth paying some attention to if you’re interested in where he’ll end up, much of what comes out after the World Series up to the submission of bids is going to be disinformation and manipulation, as teams try to get each other to lower their bids, letting the winner get a bargain, or to raise their bids, needlessly tying their team’s resources up (if you can get the Yankees to bid $40m when the next-highest bid is $10m, that’s good, unless he rules).
And then there’s the winner’s curse.
The only thing we can know for certain is that if he posts, it’s going to get crazy.