RIGHTHANDER

Masahiro Tanaka

is set to move to the majors next season after his Japanese team Rakuten Eagles announced yesterday it was prepared to let him leave, reversing its earlier rejection.

Rakuten Eagles president Yozo Tachibana told a news conference that the team has decided to release him through the posting system, paving the way for his departure. Tachibana said Tanaka's outstanding performance over the past seven years, including this season, meant he deserved to be allowed to move to the United States.

Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA with the Eagles during the regular season and sought a move to the majors but he has 2 years remaining on his contract and Rakuten was under no obligation to release him.

"I'm grateful to the team for allowing me to try. Now I've made a first step," he said. "I hope I would receive offers from as many teams as possible so I have a wider option."

The New York Yankees are considered the leading candidates to sign Tanaka, though the capping of the posting fee at $20 million meant many other teams could also afford to make offers.

The Eagles had rejected the new posting system but it was passed by a vote of Japan's professional teams. Following that decision, Rakuten had initially said they want to retain Tanaka, before yesterday's change of heart.

Tachibana said the team took into consideration Tanaka's "outstanding contribution to the team" since he joined the Eagles 7 years ago.

For 30 days from the time a player is posted, any MLB team can attempt to sign the player. It pays the posting fee only if it signs the player.

The new posting system was negotiated after some MLB teams objected that only the richest clubs could afford to bid on top Japanese players.

Under the previous agreement, which began in 1998 and ran through last offseason, there was no cap on bidding and only the highest bidder could negotiate with the player.

Boston obtained pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka from the Seibu Lions before the 2007 season for $51,111,111.11, and agreed to a 6-year, $52 million contract. Texas got pitcher Yu Darvish from the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters before the 2012 season for $51,703,411 and gave him a 6-year, $56 million deal.

In other baseball news:

Mike Hegan, who played 12 years in the majors and was a longtime broadcaster with the Cleveland Indians, has died. He was 71. The Indians say Hegan had his family by his side when he passed away yesterday morning in Hilton Head, S.C. No other details were provided. Hegan was a radio and TV broadcaster for the Indians for 23 years. He retired after the 2011 season. The son of former Indians catcher Jim Hegan made the AL All-Star team with the Seattle Pilots in 1969 and helped Oakland win the 1972 World Series. A first baseman and outfielder, he hit .242 with 53 homers and 229 RBI in 965 games with three organizations.

College Football

* Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has agreed to take the same position with Florida, according to a source. Roper is expected to remain with the Blue Devils through the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31. Roper replaces Brent Pease, who was fired the day after Florida (4-8) completed its first losing season since 1979. Florida's offense ranked 112th nationally - the third straight year it placed 100th or worse.

Basketball

* A former NBA player says he wants to build a $1.3 billion arena and hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. Las Vegas basketball player and businessman Jackie Robinson announced the project this week. It's tentatively called the All Net Arena and Resort, and would be built on the site of a former water park near the renovated SLS Las Vegas hotel-casino and the Fontainebleau tower. Robinson says the project is privately funded. He says construction could begin next spring and be completed in 2016. The 22,000-seat stadium would be the second new arena on the tourist corridor. MGM Resorts International is partnering with sports and entertainment promoter AEG on another arena on the other side of the Strip.

Olympics

Gunnar Ericsson, a longtime International Olympic Committee executive, died at 94.