At some point this offseason, the Nippon Ham Fighters will post ace-slash-slugger Shohei Ohtani (not Otani) for the 30 major-league clubs. We don't know when exactly it'll happen, but it'll happen. The Fighters have announced their intention to do so.

The hold up right now is a squabble over the posting agreement. The posting agreement, the process that allows Japanese players to come to Major League Baseball before qualifying for free agency, expired earlier this year. MLB and Nippon Pro Baseball agreed to grandfather Ohtani in under the old posting agreement, meaning the Fighters will get a $20 million release fee for letting him go.

The MLB Players Association does not like this arrangement, however. Long story short, the MLBPA doesn't want so much money going to the Fighters and so little going to Ohtani. Because he is not yet 25, the 23-year-old Ohtani is subject to the international spending hard cap, meaning his maximum possible signing bonus is currently $3.5 million or so. 

Furthermore, Ohtani can only sign a minor league contract this offseason, and he will come with six years of team control like every other rookie. That means three pre-arbitration years, during which he will be paid something close to the league minimum, and three arbitration years, during which he'll earn more, but not nearly as much as he'd make as a free agent.

MLB and NPB are currently haggling with the MLBPA because they want to bring Ohtani over. MLB wants to add this superstar to the league and the Fighters want to grant Ohtani's wish of playing in MLB (and get their $20 million). And MLBPA wants Ohtani to come over too, because great players are good for business. There is now a hard deadline to get this posting issue resolved.

This Ohtani situation with the posting system and the international hard cap represents a day of reckoning for the MLBPA. This is their fault. These are collectively bargaining matters the union caved on, because they've been negotiating away the earning potential of their future members for years and years now.

Consider the draft and international spending rule changes during the last few collective bargaining agreements:

CBA Term

Draft Spending

International Spending





"Soft" cap with harsh penalties for excess spending

"Soft" cap with harsh penalties for excess spending


"Soft" cap with harsh penalties for excess spending

Hard cap

The MLBPA continues agreeing to limit spending -- MLB and the 30 owners love to cut costs! -- with each passing collective bargaining agreement. Their thinking is the less spent on amateurs through the draft and international free agency, the more money that is available for MLBPA members (40-man roster players). The earning potential of non-MLBPA members was an easy thing to concede.

Years and years of concessions have now caught up to the MLBPA. They have a superstar player ready to come over, someone with the potential to break baseball's salary scale and make things more lucrative for all union members, but can't because they negotiated away his earning potential last December, when they agreed to the current collective bargaining agreement.

Keep in mind Ohtani was not some secret hidden away in Japan. Diehard fans have known about him for years and have been waiting patiently for him to come to the big leagues. MLB and the MLBPA were very aware Ohtani would look to come over at some point during the current collective bargaining agreement when they negotiated the deal last year.

Shohei Ohtani won't get the contract he deserves because of the MLBPA. Getty Images

And yet, the international spending rules almost appear to be written explicitly by MLB and the owners to prevent Ohtani from landing a monster contract, and changing baseball's salary scale. They put a hard cap on his bonus and made sure he'd have to wait years (until the 2019-20 offseason when he turns 25) before he could sign as a true free agent, knowing he doesn't want to wait that long. And the MLBPA let it all happen.

On one hand, it's good the union is finally standing up for one of its future members. They want Ohtani to get paid, hence the current posting agreement squabble. On the other hand, they agreed to these international spending rules. They had their seat at the table during negotiations. They had their time to object and seek more favorable terms, but they didn't.

For years the MLBPA has been selling out their future members by agreeing to limit draft and international bonuses, and now it is finally coming back to bite them. The current collective bargaining agreement will cost Ohtani tens of millions of dollars, maybe hundreds of millions. That would've benefited all MLBPA members. Instead, he'll get a small fraction of his market value, and it is the union's fault for continually caving on amateur spending.