Shohei Ohtani posted: What to know and what comes next for MLB's top free agent

Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese two-way phenom who is currently the most sought after free agent in baseball, took another step toward joining a major-league club Friday. Hours after MLB teams ratified the new posting system and said that Ohtani had been posted effective Friday, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters made the announcement.

What does that mean for Ohtani's future? Here's an answer to that -- and to other questions you might have about Ohtani's situation.

What does it mean to be 'posted'?

That's baseball's way of saying a Nippon Professional Baseball player who does not have the service time to become a free agent is being offered to big-league clubs by his current team. Ohtani, just 23, obviously did not have the nine years required to come to the majors without his team's permission

How good is Ohtani?

Ohtani is considered the best player in the world who isn't in the majors. He has been compared to All-Stars both on the mound and at the plate, and given his young age, could develop into the best player period. Ohtani has hit .286/.358/.500 as a professional while managing pitching marks of a 2.52 ERA and 3.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's probably going to be a challenge for fantasy and video games, too -- that's how good and unique his talent is.

Why would Ohtani's team post him?

You might wonder why the Ham Fighters wouldn't just keep him for themselves. The answer is in part to get significant compensation for him, and to do right by their player, who, by all accounts, wanted to come to North America.

Why is there a release fee?

Fairly or not, this measure helps compensate the player's old team for its loss, as it grants them ownership to the release fee.

What is the release fee?

In this case, it'll be $20 million. In the future, the release fee will be based on the contract the player agrees to with his new team. You can read more about that here.

What teams are able to negotiate with Ohtani?

Any and all who agree to pay the release fee. Note that the release fee isn't paid unless Ohtani agrees to a deal with that team, so there's no excuse for any team to pass up on the chance to at least talk to Ohtani about a potential deal.

When does Ohtani's posting window expire?

In three weeks, or on Dec. 22 at 11:59 p.m ET, at which point we should know who Ohtani has signed with.

What comes next?

Ohtani has already asked the 30 teams to fill out questionnaires concerning how they intend to implement him and help him adjust to life in the majors. Expect him to continue to feel out interested parties, including through some face-to-face meetings in a bit of a recruiting process. Ohtani probably won't sign until the final days of the window -- and for good reason, he's making a life-changing decision, and he appears dead-set on making the right call. 

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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