While plenty of intrigue remains for the 2017 postseason, particularly with big-market teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees reaching the League Championship Series, what will transpire this winter with Shohei Otani is already among the most-discussed topics.
Otani just completed a fifth season with the Nippon Ham Fighters. He appeared in just 65 games, which was his lowest total since playing in 77 during a rookie 2013 season. The 23-year-old was dogged by thigh and ankle injuries throughout the year.
Because of that, he was unable to play for Team Japan in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. It also limited Otani’s time on the mound to just four starts.
He’s now undergone ankle surgery and is expected to make a full recovery after an estimated three months, via Kyodo News
Slugging ace pitcher Shohei Otani should be fit to pitch and hit without any restrictions in about three months, the Nippon Ham Fighters said Wednesday.
The Pacific League club reported that the 23-year-old had successful surgery on his right ankle in a Tokyo hospital and all signs indicate he will be fit to start camp in February.
The Fighters are expected to post their superstar this winter, making him available to join a Major League club beginning with the 2018 season. Otani is forfeiting the opportunity to truly maximize his earning potential.
If he was to play two more seasons with the Fighters and come to the Majors as a 25-year-old, Otani would be exempt from MLB restrictions on international signing bonuses. As it stands, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has capped teams’ bonus pools between $4.75 million and $5.75 million.
However some, including the Dodgers, are limited to $300,000 as penalty for previously exceeding pool limits. The decision to come to the Majors at this time supports Otani’s previous remarks of not being concerned over the potential loss of salary in a contract.