Shohei Otani, the best baseball player in the world not currently employed by a major-league team, will soon be made available to the 30 clubs in Major League Baseball.
The Nippon Ham Fighters, Otani's team in Japan, announced Friday they will make Otani available to MLB teams through the posting system this offseason. The Kyodo News provides some more information:
"Everyone in our ballclub accepts his thoughts," Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama told a press conference at a Tokyo hotel concerning the 23-year-old two-way player's intention to move to the big leagues.
"It's not just me, but everyone in the ballclub believed in what he can do," Kuriyama said, looking back on Otani's five-year career in Japan. "I never lost doubt and I was sure he can do it. I spent the past five years just believing in that."
It is important to note Otani has not yet been posted. The Fighters only announced their intention to post Otani at some point this offseason.. As things stand, Otani could only receive a maximum signing bonus of about $3.5 million -- some teams can only offer $300,000 -- plus a league minimum salary in 2018.
One caveat to news that Nippon Ham Fighters will post Ohtani: A new posting agreement still is not in place. @Joelsherman1 reported “tentative understanding” between MLB and NPB, but players’ union must sign off. If Fighters want $20M fee grandfathered and union balks…problem.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 10, 2017
Otani recently hired Nez Balelo of CAA, an MLBPA-certified agent, which should help MLB and NPB hammer out an agreement with MLBPA. The union now knows Otani has good representation, and will be kept informed throughout the process.
Otani, 23, is arguably the best hitter and pitcher in Japan. He battled ankle and quad injuries this past season, but still hit .332/.403/.540 with eight home runs in 231 plate appearances while throwing 25 1/3 innings with a 3.20 ERA. In 2016, while fully healthy, Otani hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers and posted a 1.86 ERA with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings.
MLB and NPB agreed Otani will be grandfathered in under the old posting agreement, meaning the Fighters will set a $20 million release fee. Once Otani is posted, teams will have 30 days to negotiated a contract with him. The team that signs him them pays the release fee.
Because he is only 23, Otani is subject to MLB's international hard cap, which severely limits his earning potential. Regardless, Otani has made it clear he wants to come to North America. Money does not seem to be his top priority..