Highly regarded pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was given permission by the Seibu Lions on Tuesday to pursue a career in the major leagues.
Matsuzaka, who has drawn interest from several major league teams including the New York Yankees, finished the 2006 regular season with a career-high 17 wins against five losses.
The 26-year-old right-hander posted a 2.13 earned-run average and 200 strikeouts.
Matsuzaka has long been considered one of the brightest prospects in Japanese professional baseball.
Seibu is expected to use the posting system in which major league teams present bids for Japanese players and the highest bidder wins the negotiating rights. Ichiro Suzuki signed with the Seattle Mariners under the same system.
Matsuzaka is still one year away from becoming a free agent.
In his eight-year career in Japan, Matsuzaka has led the Pacific League in wins three times and in strikeouts four times while winning the ERA title twice and the Sawamura Award, Japan's version of the Cy Young Award, once.
Matsuzaka impressed major league scouts when he helped Japan win the inaugural World Baseball Classic title last March and was named MVP of the tournament.