Japan's biggest baseball star Otani has reportedly started interviewing MLB agents

Earlier this month, word got out Japanese sensation Shohei Otani will indeed make the jump from Nippon Pro Baseball in Japan over to Major League Baseball this offseason. Nothing has been made official yet -- Otani's team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, has to agree to post him for MLB teams -- but Otani has made it no secret he wants to join the big leagues and soon.

There is now even more evidence Otani is planning to come across the pond this winter. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports Otani has started interviewing agents. From Heyman:

Word is that Otani has been repped by a lawyer in early meetings, and that he and his team will choose from a group of prominent agents, who have begun making the trek to Japan for the meetings. One person familiar with the situation suggested Otani's team may winnow the agent hopefuls down soon, and begin a second round of interviews within the next week or so. 

Big-time agencies Wasserman (led by Joel Wolfe and Adam Katz), Octagon (headed by Alan Nero) and the Scott Boras Corporation are believed to be in the early mix and seen as among the favorites, as all have experience repping Japanese stars. Many groups declined comment or ignored messages regarding the process, but other big-time agencies with experiencing repping Japanese stars include Excel (Casey Close), CAA (Brodie Van Wagenen) and John Boggs. 

Otani's situation is very unique. Because he is only 23, he is subject to MLB's hard spending cap for international players. Every MLB team spent a big chunk of their 2017-18 international money on Latin American players when the signing period opened July 2, so there's not much left for Otani. The Yankees and Rangers both have roughly $3 million in hard cap space available, the most among the 30 teams.

The absolute maximum Otani could've received under the hard cap is about $10 million. Back when Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka came to MLB, there was no hard cap, and they were free to sign contracts of any size. Darvish inked a six-year, $60 million deal in 2012 while Tanaka received seven years and $155 million in 2014. They came over under different posting systems, however. Darvish could only negotiate with the team that won his negotiating rights at auction. Tanaka was free to negotiate with all 30 teams, increasing his leverage.

One important thing to keep in mind: MLB and NPB need to agree to a new posting system before Otani can come over. Right now there is no mechanism in place for Japanese players to come to MLB before they qualify for international free agency. The posting agreement expired earlier this year and MLB's owners expressed an interest in renegotiating the deal to get more favorable terms.

For now, Otani appears to be going through the necessary steps to prepare himself for an MLB career. He's looking to hire an agent, and given the international hard cap, that agent's job figures to be landing lucrative endorsement deals to supplement Otani's relatively meager signing bonus.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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