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Tanaka eyes US move under newest rules that make switch to MLB easier

TOKYO--Star Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka on Tuesday told his club he wants to try his hand in Major League Baseball, hours after a new “posting” system was announced that makes switching to the United States easier.

Major League Baseball (MLB) said on Monday that it had reached an agreement with Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) on the new rules and the 25-year-old Tanaka is keen for a fresh challenge.

“I told (Yozo Tachibana, president of the Rakuten Golden Eagles), 'let me try in the Major League next season,'” Tanaka told reporters at the team's ground in Sendai.

“After this season, I want to go on to a fresh stage,” he said.

At a separate news conference, Tachibana said he would reply to Tanaka's request after holding talks with club management, saying: “We will take his decision seriously.”

Under the previous system, which saw Japanese stars such as Yu Darvish, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Ichiro Suzuki move from Japan to U.S. clubs, American teams made blind offers for negotiation rights to a player.

The highest bidder would win the rights to an exclusive signing period. If the player signed a deal to leave Japan, his former club would receive the posting fee as a purchase price for the player. If there was no deal, the player would stay with his Japanese club and the posting fee would be negated.

Under the new system, if an NPB club wishes to make a player available to U.S. clubs, Japanese officials will notify the MLB commissioner's office of his availability and a release fee that would be demanded. Such a fee cannot exceed US$20 million.

The commissioner's office would notify MLB clubs of the player's availability and a day after the player is posted any Major League club willing to pay the release fee could negotiate with him.

Any American team that signed the player would pay his Japanese club the release fee. If he is not signed the release fee is not owed and the NPB player remains under reserve to his Japanese club.

Tanaka went 24-0 in the regular season this year, helping to propel the Rakuten Golden Eagles to their first Japan Series title.

The right-hander was expected to command a high fee for negotiation rights and a huge salary, but he had been in limbo as U.S. and Japanese league officials discussed changing the system.

Rakuten officials could decide that since they cannot receive more than US$20 million for Tanaka, they will keep him for another season.

They could have expected more under the old system. In 2012, the Texas Rangers posted a winning bid of US$51.7 million just for the right to negotiate with Darvish, eventually signing him to a six-year deal worth US$56 million.

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