It's happening. Masahiro Tanaka, the right-handed pitching sensation from Japan, will be starting an MLB career after being posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles. The only question is, which team?

The Golden Eagles took a while, but they eventually relented and opened Tanaka up to the highest bidder. MLB teams can post up to $20 million to negotiate with Tanaka, and if more than one team surpasses that amount, it turns into a free-for-all. (The teams that don't end up signing Tanaka don't actually pay the posting fee, though. It's the weirdest game of poker.)

The 25-year-old Tanaka is making the jump to the MLB at a practical age. Daisuke Matsuzaka was 26 when he went to the Red Sox, and Yu Darvish was 25 in his first season with the Rangers. Financially, with the guaranteed nature of MLB contracts, this is Tanaka's shot to get paid. He has the stats to back it up: Tanaka had an ERA under 2.00 in each of his past three seasons with Rakuten. With Darvish's performance much fresher in minds than Matsuzaka's, teams will shell out money at the allure of a ready, young starter.


Photo: AP