Should The Posting Process Be Changed?

I was reading FanGraphs on Tuesday when I came to this post by Patrick Newman discussing the inefficiencies of the posting system currently in place that allows MLB teams to acquire Japanese talent from NPB, with Newman specifically focusing on the unsuccessful attempt of Hisashi Iwakuma to make the move across the Pacific. Following his post, I chose to look over the comments. From the opinions left on Newman’s article and others in the past, I’ve noticed that quite a few people believe that the posting process needs to be changed. Here, I focus on two particular arguments that were made in the comments section of Newman’s post.

Here are some comments that I’ve cherry-picked. This group of four all have the same theme.

DIVISION

Perhaps start banning teams from the bidding process if they have a history of not signing the player.

Billy Beane wouldn’t keep bidding on players and then trying to lowball them if there’s a penalty.

short

The current system also allows a smaller-budget team like Oakland to block the player from ending up with a rival by posting a huge bid, then lowballing the player until he refuses to sign. Then none of the bidding team’s rivals get the player, and the bidding team pays nothing.

jimmy1138

A’s overpaid hugely on the posting fee, so possibly just tried to block Seattle and Texas. That’s a big hole in the posting process: teams are not penalized for doing that.

Bobby Ayala

Obviously the A’s just blocked their AL West rivals– their posting fee was almost 3 times as much as anyone else, then they immediately offered him an unacceptably low deal which they wouldn’t budge on. I don’t think they ever had any intention of signing him.

Right away, we have four comments arguing that either the Oakland Athletics bid such a high amount on Iwakuma to prevent him from going to other teams and that all teams should be penalized for failing to sign players that are posted from NPB.

Starting with the accusations that the A’s did this merely to block other teams from signing Iwakuma, I think it’s just merely a conspiracy theory. The A’s bid $19.1 million, and the Minnesota Twins reportedly finished second by bidding $7.7 million. The large difference between these two bids does create the illusion that the A’s were trying to significantly outbid everyone else, but we don’t know that for sure. As Newman mentions, the posting process is done by way of a closed bidding, so none of the teams know how much their rivals are offering up. There is still the possibility that the A’s just miscalculated how much other teams were willing to pay to get the rights to Iwakuma. Plus, I’ve noticed a distinct lack of additional AL West teams mentioned in the same sentence as Iwakuma. It’s not wise to accuse Billy Beane of outbidding other teams that for all we know weren’t even involved.

Second, should teams really be penalized for failing to sign the player? The current system in place started in 1998, and since then there have been 17 attempted postings. These players were successfully posted and signed to an MLB contract 11 times, failed to receive a post 5 times, and received a post but didn’t sign only once. A failed signing occurring only once in 12 years doesn’t seem like a new rule needs to be put in place.

I’ll admit that I don’t know which players qualified as stars over in the NPB (excluding Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Matsui, and Ichiro Suzuki), but a player coming over to the major leagues via the posting process and becomes a star rarely happens. Of the 11 players to come to the bigs, only three have signed a contract with an annual salary larger than $4 million: Ichiro, Dice-K, and Kazuhisa Ishii. Only three have managed a contract larger than 3 years: Dice-K, Ishii, and Kei Igawa. Finally, only five times has a team submitted a bid over $10 million, and that’s for the four players that met either of the previous restrictions along with Hisashi Iwakuma.

Of all players to come to America via the posting process, we could probably order the top five as Ichiro, Daisuke, either Akinori Iwamura or Akinori Otsuka, and Ramon Ramirez. Only the top two met the restrictions I imposed above. Also, the most successful Japanese players to come from NPB – such as Hideki Matsui, Hiroki Kuroda, and Takashi Saito – were signed as free agents. Getting back on track, my point is that it shouldn’t be common for teams to have to block others from potentially acquiring NPB players, because the players posted don’t tend to significantly improve a team, nor do they tend to be expensive to acquire.

Additionally, only three teams have successfully acquired an NPB player through the posting process more than once: the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Rays, and New York Yankees. Nine different teams have ever won a bid. I don’t see the point in creating a rule which would have taken effect only once in twelve years. Perhaps the future will prove me wrong, but I really feel that the comments above were from people wanting to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.

Now on to the other argument.

Matt K

Of course, that means big market teams are going to get most of these players, but it’s not like that’s any different now.

Here’s Matt K’s comment if you want the quote above to be in context, but I’m looking specifically at the end. It’s not like that’s (big market teams winning posts) any different now. By my count, half of the 12 winning bids have come from what I would call large market teams in the Yankees and Dodgers (twice), the Boston Red Sox, and the Seattle Mariners. The other teams are the Twins, Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics, and Rays (twice).

Simply put, this is evidence that small market teams have just as good of a chance of winning a bid as do large market teams. However, it is true that the large market teams are usually the ones that have placed much larger bids (excluding Oakland’s with Iwakuma), so if Matt K meant that large market teams tend to get the more expensive Japanese players, then this is true. But returning to my argument above, few of these players have paid dividends for their MLB teams, regardless of their suitors being a large or small market team.

Could the posting process be changed for the better? Yeah, I believe so, but penalizing teams for failing to sign players and accusing large market teams of having an advantage isn’t going to help.

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4 Responses to “Should The Posting Process Be Changed?”

  1. JimCrikket Says:

    I tend to agree that penalizing teams for not following through with a signing is a bad idea. Any penalty that would be high enough to be a deterent would also shift the advantage in negotiations in the favor of the player and his agent. They would have the leverage that comes from knowing the team will be penalized if no deal is made.

    The thing people need to keep in mind is that the players being posted are under contract with their Japanese team… so what we’re talking about is a system that fairly compensates a team who currently owns the rights to that player in return for allowing a MLB team to negotiate for his services before he’s a free agent.

    If any change were to be made, I might consider tweaking the system to allow the Japanese team to decide which, from the top two bids, to accept. That way, if they suspect the highest bidding team is just blocking others and wouldn’t really try to sign the player, they could elect to accept the second highest bid if they think that team would be more likely to negotiate in good faith. (I wouldn’t go so far as to allow selecting from ANY bid… I think that could result in certain Japanese teams almost becoming farm teams for specific MLB teams and always sending their players to that team.)

    • Andrew Says:

      Agreed, one thing I forgot to mention (but Newman points out) is that the Japanese teams do not know which MLB teams submitted the bids. They only know how much money was posted, and then they decide if they want to accept that bid.

      I like the idea of allowing the Japanese team to know the two highest bids and revealing which two teams submitted those bids. One issue I foresee is the possibility of the player learning which teams are involved, and then telling their NPB team that they will not sign a contract if they are not sent to a team of their liking (see: Eli Manning drafted by San Diego Chargers). Perhaps if the NPB team is instructed to keep the MLB teams involved a secret, that would avoid this problem.

      • JimCrikket Says:

        Good point, I had forgotten that the NPB team doesn’t know which MLB teams bid. That may not be a bad thing though. Looking at the Iwakuma situation, for example. If his team knows the highest bid was $18M and the second highest was $7M, regardless of who the teams are, they may reasonably wonder if the high bid is just a blocking bid. They may see their options as (1) a 10% chance of getting $18M or (2) an 80% chance of getting $7M. Which option they would choose may depend on how badly they need money and how they feel about the possibility of keeping the player for one more year and then watching him walk off as a free agent without getting compensation.

        I’d be a bit concerned about trying to keep the names of bidding teams away from the player once the Japanese team knows who it is. It’s too hard to know who in an organization might ‘leak’ that information to the player or his agent.

        There really aren’t perfect answers and fans from the large market teams will always advocate for a system where whoever has the most money gets the player.

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