As a new Major League Baseball season gets underway, the New York Yankees are welcoming a new import to their roster. This new component of the team comes in the form of right handed starting pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka made his way to the Bronx by way of the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan (Bearak). Mr. Tanaka was arguably the best player and certainly the best pitcher in the NPB. In six years in Japan he compiled statistics that clearly showed his dominance in his craft. Despite dominating the NPB Tanaka and other Japanese players of like-wise skills have moved to the world of Major League Baseball in the United States. Opportunities, competition, and salaries are greater in MLB, which draws the athletes to America.
In Japan a player enters the league through a talent draft directly out of high school, or must wait a four year period to attend college before re-entering the draft (Baseball in Japan: The Old Ballgame). This experience is much like the one in the United States up to this point. The exception is that in Japan players are bound to their teams for ten years, with no possibility of free agency. In the United States the initial contracts are six years, before given the opportunity for free agency. By being tied up in ten year contracts, Japanese players are essentially experiencing an Opportunity Cost. Opportunity Cost is what one gives up or loses when making a decision between two things. Opportunity Cost does not have to be a monetary value. The decision here would be Tanaka giving up ten years of his career with no dictation on where or how his skills will be used. The value of this cost proves to be enormous when his earning power is extrapolated to the United States and Major League Baseball. For example in ten years in Japan, had he fulfilled his contract, Tanaka would have earned approximately $39,000,000. While that is a fair value in the NPB, it pales in comparison to the $155,000,000 (Bearak) he stands to make in the United States in seven years.