Following the announced agreement that the maximum bid for a posted Japanase player would be $20 million, it made it less likely that Masahiro Tanaka would be posted. According to this, the team president has said he will not be posted (h/t to RC). Rakuten was the lone NPB team to vote against the agreement and were said to be very angry at the other 11 teams.
This is understandable. The posting fee for Tanaka was expected to exceed to $50 million, which is quite a large sum. Now, it will more than likely be the maximum $20 million.
CJ Nitkowiski of mlb.com says Tanaka will undoubtedly be posted. His reasoning: that $20 million is more than $0. While that is of course true, I think Nitkowski is being too simple-minded about this.
Masahiro Tanaka is the biggest start to potentially come from Japan yet, but he has two more years before he's eligible to. In the NPB, a player must have 9 years of service time before he's eligible for international free agency, but only 8 before he's a free agent. After 2014, Tanaka could sign with any of the NPB teams he wants to so Rakuten only has him for one more guaranteed year.
Still, one year for a player as good as Tanaka and paying him just $5 million is some bargain. I'm not the least bit knowledgeable about baseball in Japan, but surplus value is surplus value everywhere in the world. At Tanaka's salary, he offers a lot of surplus value.
Is it $20 million? I have no idea, but my guess would be that it is. I'd also venture a guess that the Rakuten owner could probably extend his contract for an additional year and make out even better. He could trade him to another Japanese team and get a ton of value back.
Rakuten is not without options. They could extend him, much like the Cubs could Jeff Samardzija. They could trade him like they did Matt Garza and others. They could let him play and more than likely win a lot of games, which would obviously sell lots of tickets and merchandise. Or they could take the $20 million.
What option is best? I couldn't possibly tell you, but it's not as simple as $20 million vs. $0. It's more like $20 million vs. his surplus value. It's entirely that surplus value exceeds the $20 million and it would therefore make no sense for Rakuten to post him.