On Wednesday, Major League Baseball and the players union reached a verbal agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.
The new CBA -- which still has to be ratified by both sides -- will introduce some wrinkles to the international free-agent signing system. As it turns out, those wrinkles could mean that one of the world's best players -- pitcher-slash-hitter Shohei Otani -- won't make his way to the United States anytime soon.
Under the current-but-soon-to-be-old CBA, teams were allowed to exceed their bonus pools if a player met certain age and experience criteria. The new CBA is set to enforce a stricter cap -- of $6 million per team per year -- and to increase those aforementioned thresholds, per Joel Sherman, who adds that he's unsure whether MLB's recent agreement with NPB would overrule these CBA tweaks:
Hear that age limits on international players covered by caps in the new CBA is rising from 23 to 25. So, for example (cont)— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 1, 2016
I have not gotten firm explanation on Otani who turns 23 in July. Not sure if a new deal with NPB would override the CBA— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 1, 2016
If the CBA does take precedence, then Otani, who turned 22 in July, figures to be the most prominent player affected, since coming to the majors before he turns 25 would entail taking a massive haircut:
Official: "We do have a bit of an Otani problem." If Otani came before 2019, the max he could receive is ~$6M. As true FA, could get $250M+.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 1, 2016
The timing is poor, too. Earlier in the offseason, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America wrote a piece detailing why Otani wasn't coming to the majors this winter, but rather next given his 23rd birthday would allow him to shed those aforementioned restrictions. Here's how Cooper reacted to the new CBA's tweaks:
This means Otani stays in Japan for 3 more years. https://t.co/BbyPPWepo3— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) December 1, 2016
So, in summary: The new rules are great for owners and teams who don't want to pay international talent big dollars, and horrible for those of us more interested in seeing the world's best talent -- including Otani -- join the majors as soon as possible while also making their market worth.