What if Ichiro Suzuki had been free to pick the Mets over the Mariners when he first came to the United States? What if Yu Darvish had been given permission to choose the Yankees rather than sign with the Rangers?

What then? How would those decisions have impacted Major League Baseball and its Japanese counterpart Nippon Professional Baseball? And what about the players themselves? Would they have been better off?

It appears we are about to find out.

Multiple sources told Newsday that significant changes to the current posting system for Japanese players seem to be imminent and could take effect as soon as this November. That would enable the next coveted Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka of the Rakuten Golden Eagles to benefit from an expanded -- and presumably more player-friendly -- process should he follow through on his reported desire to play in the United States next season.

The current system uses a bidding process to determine which U.S. team wins the rights to negotiate with -- and potentially sign -- a Japanese player. Since 1998 MLB teams have submitted sealed bids with only one winner emerging and having a window to negotiate a contract.

But according to sources one of the proposals for a new system would have as many as three teams chosen among the top bidders with the Japanese player then allowed to choose the club he'd prefer to play for and negotiate with.

Major League Baseball refused to comment on any details of potential changes to the current posting system or when they could be implemented. But Kim Ng MLB's senior vice president for baseball operations did acknowledge that the two sides have talked about the issues involving the posting process.

"We've been in discussions with NPB for some time now'' Ng said "and we continue to work through the different scenarios and resolutions.''

In the minds of many the overhaul feels overdue. The posting agreement has been renewable on a year-to-year basis with either side able to re-open conversations about it for the coming offseason. And with Tanaka the most prominent member of this year's potential posting class it should be an interesting case study in how the new system works out.

One scout who recently saw Tanaka doesn't put him in the same class as Darvish who in almost two full seasons with the Rangers -- a total of 57 starts -- is 28-17 with a 3.38 ERA and 467 strikeouts an average of 11.1 per nine innings. In the posting era Darvish is the king warranting a record $57.7-million fee in 2011 from the Rangers who then signed him to a six-year $60-million contract.

Darvish surpassed Daisuke Matsuzaka's 2006 mark of $51.1 million which shattered the previous high ($13.1 million) awarded to the Orix Blue Wave for Ichiro six years earlier.