On the heels of the news that Red Sox had offered Junichi Tazawa a $6 million deal, word coming out of Tokyo today says that Tazawa has received another "lucrative" offer, this time from the Texas Rangers, and that the 22-year-old expects to decide on a Major League team soon.
It's also reported that he's leaning towards the Red Sox (who wouldn't be?), though he's spoken with the Rangers, Braves, and Mariners as well. Of course, it was also reported that Rangers' GM Jon Daniels said he wouldn't meet with Tazawa, so who knows?
If you've been following this whole saga, you already know it's an incredibly sticky situation. Tazawa is supposed to be eligible for the Japanese draft, after which he'd have to play long enough in Japan to qualify for free agency or ask for his team to post him and make him available to Major League suitors. Instead, by avoiding the draft, he's creating a loophole in which any major league team can sign him without the posting process.
There had previously been a gentleman's agreement between MLB and NPB (Nippon Pro Baseball) that the American League wouldn't sign these players, but Tazawa's potential has MLB teams intrigued enough to ignore that agreement and go after the kid.
That is the widely reported aspect of the story. Here's another angle to think about: Tazawa is likely going to sign for a bonus similar to what the top draft picks in 2008 signed for. Maybe that appears fair at first glance, but guys like Pedro Alvarez and Buster Posey played in high schools, for travelling teams, and in top level colleges, and they received a bonus similar to what amounts to an unknown quantity from Japan will receive.
Every year when Scott Boras pulls draft shenanigans like he did with Alvarez this year, it's for this reason. It's simply not fair for some players to hit the open market and pull in as much cash as possible while other players have their value forced down by the draft. Whether you like Boras or not, a system that allows players like Tazawa to be similarly compensated as draft picks isn't a fair one.
In the end, Tazawa's probably the only player that's going to be allowed to get away with this. Bud Selig and the owners certainly wouldn't want NPB luring a top draft pick the other way across the Pacific with a huge contract offer and so it's likely that the two sides will work out some kind of agreement to prevent Japanese players from bypassing their draft for American free agency. Still, all the problems aren't solved. The posting system, in which MLB teams bid for the rights to negotiate exclusively with Japanese players interested in playing in America, is far from perfect as it generally favors big market clubs. Perhaps this Tazawa incident will cause the two leagues to sit down and actually work out a real transfer agreement.
Junichi Tazawa Gets Another Big Offer, Expects to Decide Soon originally appeared on MLB FanHouse on Mon, 24 Nov 2008 14:40:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.