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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.