Shohei Otani of the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan is, without question, the best baseball player in the world not under contract with an MLB team. The 22-year-old was named the Pacific League MVP last season.
Otani is a two-way player for the Fighters, meaning he hits and pitches. On the mound Otani went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 140 innings in 2016. And on the days he didn’t pitch, he hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs in 382 plate appearances as the club’s designated hitter. There’s a strong case to be made Otani is the best hitter and pitcher in Japan right now.
Here is the preview of the 60 Minutes interview, which will air this Sunday after the Masters on CBS (scheduled for 7 p.m. ET):
It is still unclear if and when Otani will come over to MLB. Because he is not yet 25, he is subject to the league’s international spending hard cap, which limits his earning potential severely. The new collective bargaining agreement limits each team’s intentional spending at $4.75 million to $5.75 million per year.
MLB and MLBPA have expressed no willingness in creating an exception to the international cap for Otani, meaning he has two options:
- Come to MLB now and earn a fraction of what he’s worth.
- Wait until he’s 25, when he could come over and sign a contract of any size. The risk is getting hurt in the meantime.
Otani will earn approximately $2.4 million in Japan this season, so he will make good money for the time being, should he decide to remain in Japan. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated profiled Otani, who was coy about his intentions to come over to MLB, for the magazine’s upcoming issue. It has been an open secret that Otani would like to come over at some point, however. It’s more of a question of “when,” not “if.”
For now we’ll have to admire Otani’s hitting and pitching accomplishments from afar for at least one more season. Perhaps he will reveal details about his future plans during the upcoming 60 Minutes interview. Whenever he does come over to MLB, you can be sure all 30 teams will try to acquire him.