At some point soon, perhaps this offseason, there will be a massive bidding war for Nippon Ham Fighters ace Shohei Otani. Big-league clubs are counting down the days until he is posted for MLB teams.
Why? Because the 22-year-old Otani is the best pitcher in the world not under contract with a major-league team. On Tuesday, the right-hander broke his own record and threw the fastest pitch in Japanese baseball history. The 164-kph fastball translates to roughly 101.9 mph.
Check it out:
How about that twist ending? The fastball pitch in Japanese baseball history was hit to center for a two-run single! That's okay. The hitter was probably cheating fastball and starting his bat early. The previous fastest pitch record was a 101-mph fastball Otani threw earlier this year.
So far this season Otani is 8-4 with a 2.12 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 123 innings. On top of that, he's also hitting .326/.425/.611 with 22 home runs as the DH on the days he doesn't pitch. He's one of the best players in Japan on both sides of the ball. Crazy.
Otani is believed to have far more upside on the mound than at the plate, so chances are whichever MLB team signs him will have him focus on pitching. It's hard enough to do one thing well. Spending all that money and letting him try to pitch and hit seems unnecessary, but hey, someone might try it.
What will cost to get Otani, exactly? Well, Masahiro Tanaka fetched a seven-year contract worth $155 million under the current posting system, and chances are Otani will get even more because he's younger and has a bigger fastball. Also, salaries have only gone up since Tanaka signed three years ago.
There's no real indication the Fighters are ready to post Otani yet though. He is still five years away from international free agency, and since they're limited to a $20 million release fee no matter what, the team could decide to keep Otani and win with him for another few years.