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Report: MLB Will No Longer Permit Team Partnerships With NPB Teams, Others

 Leif Skodnick  |    Mar 26th, 2024 10:14am EDT

Roki Sasaki of Team Japan pitches during the 2023 World Baseball Classic Semifinal game against Team Mexico at loanDepot Park on March 20, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

A report by the Japanese website Nikkan Sports indicated that Major League Baseball has terminated its relationships with Nippon Professional Baseball and other international leagues in an attempt to prevent tampering and create fairer negotiations when teams try to sign players out of NPB.

The report stated that MLB “has notified MLB teams that it will terminate its relationships with teams and players from professional leagues in other countries (South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico), including NPB.” In addition, MLB employees will  be prohibited from having direct or indirect contact with NPB players.

Multiple current and former MLB players could be affected by the move. Hideki Matsui, a special assistant to New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, was in camp with his former NPB team, the Yomiuri Giants, and Hideo Nomo, who is employed as an advisor by the San Diego Padres, coached at the Orix Buffaloes’ training camp. Both would be prohibited from further interaction with NPB teams without obtaining permission from MLB in advance, the report indicated.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan posted on X that agreements between leagues will remain in place, but partnerships between MLB teams and teams in other leagues will be restricted. The posting system, which controls the movement of players from NPB to Major League Baseball, will remain in place.

Two NPB teams, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, have relationships with MLB teams that will likely be affected by the directive from MLB. The report indicated that the Texas Rangers have a “business alliance” with the Fighters, while the BayStars have a “strategic partnership” with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Over the winter, two former NPB players, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Shohei Ohtani, signed enormous contracts with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yamamoto signed a 12-year, $325 million deal with the Dodgers after asking to be posted by his NPB club, the Orix Buffaloes. Ohtani, who played his first five MLB seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, signed a 10-year, $700 million free agent contract with the Dodgers.

In addition, Shota Imanaga got a four-year, $53 million contract from the Chicago Cubs after pitching for the BayStars for seven seasons.

The signing of Imanaga and Yamamoto, in particular, have raised the profile of NPB as a development ground for Major League Baseball, and scouts, front office personnel, and fans are already salivating at the prospect of signing Chiba Lotte Marines pitcher Roki Sasaki, who reportedly wants to be posted following the 2024 season, even though it means that he would likely get a much smaller contract that Yamamoto and Ohtani did when they left Japan.

Nikkan Sports is, at the moment, the only outlet reporting the termination of the relationship between MLB and international leagues.