Players from Japan's top league -- Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) -- who do not have the requisite nine years of professional experience to gain international free agency can request to be "posted" for Major League clubs. When posting a player, Japanese clubs set a "release fee" -- an amount that NPB clubs must receive in the event an agreement is reached between the player and a Major League club. The maximum release fee that Japanese clubs can set is $20 million, although it can be considerably lower as well. Any Major League club that is willing to meet the designated release fee can negotiate with the player, but only the club with which the player signs must pay that release fee. If no agreement is reached, no club pays the release fee and the player returns to his NPB club for the coming season. He cannot be posted again until the following offseason.
The caveat is that foreign-born players are subject to international bonus pool money restrictions unless they are at least 25 years of age and have played as a professional in a foreign league recognized by Major League Baseball for a minimum of six seasons. Under the 2017-21 Collective Bargaining Agreement, each Major League club has a cap between $4.75 million and $5.75 million to spend on the non-exempt foreign-born player pool. Clubs will be able to acquire up to 75 percent of their initial international bonus pool money in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 signing periods and up to 60 percent of their initial pools in subsequent signing periods. This means that a club with an initial pool of $5.75 million can increase its pool total via trade to approximately $10.1 million during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 signing periods.
The Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million contract -- a sum they paid in addition to a $20 million release fee, which went to the Rakuten Golden Eagles -- following the 2013 season. On the other side of the scale, the Rangers paid a $500,000 release fee to the Yakult Swallows for right-hander Tony Barnette after the 2015 season. Texas then signed Barnette to a two-year, $3.5 million contract, bringing their total investment in him to $4 million.