Japan's Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles have decided to post highly touted pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, making him available to all Major League Baseball clubs, Asian newspaper Sponichi reported Tuesday.
Rakuten, which had stated last week that it would not let the right-hander leave, is expected to make an announcement Wednesday in Japan, according to Sponichi.
The 25-year-old Tanaka went 24-0 last season with a 1.27 ERA.
A tug-of-war has ensued between the pitcher and his current team, with Tanaka publicly stating his desire to play in America and Rakuten urging him to stay.
"We told him he is very important to us and we'd like him to stay," team president Yozo Tachibana said last week following Tanaka's news conference, during which the pitcher informed the Golden Eagles that he wanted them to allow him to "test his abilities" in the majors.
The New York Times reported last week that Rakuten was prepared to make Tanaka the highest-paid Japanese pitcher in history by offering to double or possibly triple his $4 million annual salary.
Tanaka will not become eligible for free agency in Japan until after the 2015 season and can move to the majors only if the Eagles agree to post him.
MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball finalized a new posting system earlier this month for Japanese players who have not reached free agency. It caps the fee for players at $20 million, much less than what Japanese teams previously got for players such as pitchers Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Eagles, who won the Japan Series, voted against the new posting agreement in balloting by Japan's 12 teams.
Under the rules of the three-year agreement announced Dec. 16, a Japanese club can make players available between Nov. 1 and Feb. 1, and may set a price of up to $20 million.
Starting with the day after a player is posted and continuing for 30 days, any big league team willing to pay the posting fee may attempt to sign the player. A major league team pays the posting fee only if it signs the player, and the fee is then payable in installments, with the timing dependent on the amount.
Under the previous agreement, which began in 1998 and ran through last offseason, there was no cap on bidding and only the team with the highest posting bid could negotiate with the player.
While Japanese teams were not happy with the cap on prices, some major league teams had objected that only the richest clubs could afford to bid on top players.
Information from the Associated Press has been used in this report.