The posting system is a baseball player transfer system currently in effect between Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and the United States' Major League Baseball (MLB). NPB players have never been eligible to be obtained through the traditional means of the Rule 4 Draft, and since there were no set legal rules in place to govern the process, problems arose. The system was implemented for two reasons. First, the NPB players Hideo Nomo and Alfonso Soriano used loopholes to void contracts and leave for the MLB - possibly taking fans with them. Second, NPB player Hideki Irabu had very little negotiating power when it came to his trade deal between NPB and MLB teams. By creating a system that requires MLB teams to pay NPB teams transfer fees while allowing players the power to negotiate their own trade deals, the posting system presumably was meant to solve both problems.
As of 2008, twelve Japanese players have been "posted" using the system. Of these, seven were immediately signed to Major League contracts, three were signed to minor league contracts and two were unsuccessful in drawing any MLB interest. The two highest-profile players that have been acquired through the posting system are Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Respectively, they attracted high bids of $13.125 million and $51.1 million and have enjoyed highly successful careers in the MLB.
Two years later, in late 1997, the San Diego Padres signed a working agreement with the Chiba Lotte Marines that gave the Padres the exclusive signing rights for Hideki Irabu. Unfortunately, neither team consulted with Irabu before finalizing the deal, and he and his agent soon stated that Irabu would only sign with the New York Yankees. The Major League Baseball Players Association sided with Irabu stating that the system gave the player no freedom. The MLBPA soon lost the argument, and the MLB's executive council ruled that the Padres held the rights to Irabu. Irabu ultimately won, however, when the Padres quickly traded him to the Yankees who signed him for $12.8 million over four years.
The final incident occurred the next year when Alfonso Soriano found out that he was unable to leave the Hiroshima Toyo Carp due to contract restrictions. In addition to Soriano disliking the Japanese's intense practice schedule, the Carp denied him a salary increase to $180,000 per year. Taking the advice of agent Don Nomura, the same agent who represented Hideo Nomo during his retirement from the NPB, Soriano also retired in order to void his contract with the Carp and pursue a career in the MLB. This decision resulted in the Hiroshima management suing Nomura for $1.1 million as well as threatening legal action against any ball club that negotiated with Soriano. In July 1998, however, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig declared that the MLB recognized him a free agent and the Carp backed down. Soriano signed a 5-year, $3.1 million contract with the New York Yankees the same year.
The posting system was drafted that same year, and Bud Selig and NPB Commissioner Hiromori Kawashima signed the deal in December 1998. In its design, each of the problems brought up by the Nomo, Irabu and Soriano cases were addressed. By forcing MLB teams to place bids that eventually act as transfer fees, NPB teams receive compensation for letting their star players out of their contracts. Additionally, allowing Japanese players to negotiate with MLB teams gives them power when dictating the terms of their new contracts. The system only applies to players currently under contract with a Japanese team; it does not apply to free agents, players who have ten or more years of playing service with the NPB or amateur players who have never played in the NPB. The system does not work in reversal, as it does not regulate MLB players, such as Alex Cabrera, who move to the NPB.
If the bid is rejected, the NPB team retains the player’s rights and the player cannot be posted again until the next off-season. If accepted, however, the bid amount is publicly revealed and the winning Major League team is granted the exclusive rights to negotiate with the player for 30 days. If the player and the MLB team agree on contract terms before the 30-day period has expired, the NPB team receives the bid amount as a transfer fee, and the player is free to play for that team in the MLB in the coming season. If the MLB team cannot come to a contract agreement with the posted player, then no fee is paid, and the player's rights revert back to his NPB team. A player can request to be posted again in subsequent years, and the process is repeated with no advantage to the club that had won the previous year.
|Posting Date||Player||NPB Team||MLB Team||Winning Bid|| Date of Contract|
|Alejandro Quezada||Hiroshima Toyo Carp||Cincinnati Reds||$400,001||Signed minor league contract|
|Ichiro Suzuki||Orix BlueWave||Seattle Mariners||$13,125,000||3 years, $14 million|
|Kazuhisa Ishii||Yakult Swallows||Los Angeles Dodgers||$11,260,00||4 years, $12.3 million|
|Ramón Ramírez||Hiroshima Toyo Carp||New York Yankees||$350,000||Signed minor league contract|
|Akinori Otsuka||Chunichi Dragons||San Diego Padres||$300,000||2 years, $1.5 million|
|Norihiro Nakamura||Orix Buffaloes||Los Angeles Dodgers||Undisclosed||Signed minor league contract|
|Shinji Mori||Seibu Lions||Tampa Bay Devil Rays||$750,000||2 years, $1.4 million|
|Daisuke Matsuzaka||Seibu Lions||Boston Red Sox||$51,111,111.11||6 year, $52 million|
|Akinori Iwamura||Yakult Swallows||Tampa Bay Devil Rays||$4,500,000||3 year, $7.7 million|
|Kei Igawa||Hanshin Tigers||New York Yankees||$26,000,194||5 years, $20 million|
|Posting Date||Player||NPB Team||Result||Notes|
|Timo Pérez||Hiroshima Toyo Carp||Re-signed with the Carp on February 3, 1999 for ¥34.5 million (US$295,705 in 1999)|
|Akinori Otsuka||Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes||Signed with the Chunichi Dragons on March 20, 2003 for ¥95 million (US$800,404 in 2003)|
|Yusaku Iriki||Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters||Released by the Fighters on December 5, 2005; signed by the New York Mets on January 18, 2006 to a one-year, $750,000 contract|