Rakuten ace Masahiro Tanaka is to hold talks with club bosses over his plan to move to the U.S. major leagues, reports said Monday—a switch likely to make him the most expensive Japanese player in history.
The 25-year-old right-hander pitched on Sunday, helping the Rakuten Eagles—based in the tsunami-hit northeast of Japan—to their first national title.
Tanaka exacted revenge against the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Giants the day after he was the losing pitcher in a 4-2 defeat, snapping his 30-game winning streak since last August.
The player is expected to meet with club president Yozo Tachibana over his plan to play in the United States next season, the Nikkan Sports daily reported.
“First, we want to confirm his intention, which is the starting point,” Tachibana told reporters after the team beat the Giants 3-0 at home in the final game of the best-of-seven Japan Series.
“I will listen to his thoughts, although the team still needs him,” Tachibana said.
Tanaka has already informed Rakuten of his desire to move to the United States and they are unlikely to stand in his way, Nikkan Sports said.
Reports said the cost of the rights to negotiate with Tanaka could top $100 million, easily surpassing a record $51.7 million paid out in the case of Yu Darvish, who signed for the Texas Rangers nearly two years ago.
U.S. clubs, including the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox and Rangers, have sent scouts to Japan to look at Tanaka, they said.
Born in Hyogo, Tanaka joined Rakuten in 2007 and has since won 99 regular season games against 35 defeats with an earned run average over 2.30.