The Los Angeles Dodgers have been significant players for international free agents throughout the franchise’s history and in particular during the 2015-16 international signing period. Exceeding their bonus pool allotment meant facing restrictions in the future.
Though, the collective bargaining agreement MLB implemented following the 2016 season would have handcuffed the Dodgers for international free agents under the age of 25. That applies most prominently to Japanese star Shohei Otani.
Not only is the 22-year-old regarded as the best pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball, he’s an equally feared slugger.
Although right-handed, Otani sees similarities between himself and three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, per Jon Wertheim of CBSnews.com:
I actually do see myself. And I actually try throwing lefty sometimes.
Otani added he enjoys the thought of one day being able to face the Dodgers ace:
Just thinking about facing him makes me really happy and excited. I could just tell he’s such a great pitcher through the TV screen.
Otani has yet to pitch this season for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. He’s batting .407/.469/.815 with five doubles, two home runs and three RBI in eight games. Last season, Otani posted career-best marks by hitting .322/.416/.588.
He also set career highs in games (104), doubles (18), home runs (22) and RBI (67). On the mound, Otani went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings across 21 games (20 starts).
Otani was slated to be included on the Team Japan roster for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but was left off due to a nagging ankle injury.
As for the new cap on MLB teams bidding to sign international free agents who aren’t yet 25 years old, Otani said that’s not of concern for him. The Fighters are expected to post their dynamic player following the 2017 season.