For the better part of the past two years, Major League Baseball teams, executives and scouts alike have anticipated and wondered when Japanese start Shohei Otani would make the jump stateside.
The 23-year-old is in his fifth season with the Fighters. Otani has cemented himself not only as the country’s best pitcher, but best hitter as well. He was expected to participate in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but an ankle injury forced Team Japan to leave the dynamic talent off their roster.
On the heels of Otani making just his third start on the mound this season, came multiple reports that the Fighters will make him available for Major League teams via the posting system, according to Kyodo News:
Nippon Ham Fighters slugging ace pitcher Shohei Otani is likely to go to the major leagues through the posting system after the end of this season, an informed source said Wednesday.
While there was a growing expectation that Otani would depart from Japan following this season, the timing of his decision comes at a loss of tens of millions in potential earning value. MLB overhauled spending limits and regulations for international free agents under the age of 25.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement has capped teams’ bonus pools between $4.75 million and $5.75 million. Though some, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, are limited to $300,000 as penalty for previously exceeding pool limits.
Team are permitted to trade for international bonus money, with the capability of increasing their pool by a maximum of 75 percent. The Dodgers moved to do as much when they traded Chris Hatcher to Oakland Athletics, and Jason Wheeler to the Baltimore Orioles.
If Otani were to play two more seasons with the Fighters, he’d be eligible to sign with any MLB team for any value, rather than go through the posting process. What’s more, MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball need to agree on a terms of a new posting sytem.
In the past, the posting fee paid to a Japanese team was $20 million. As it stands, Otani will receive a signing bonus from whichever MLB team he elects to join, sign a Minor League contract and have it purchased so he could be added to a 40-man roster.
He then would begin an MLB career just as any other Minor League player.