Report: Shohei Otani plans to play in MLB in 2018
The move comes somewhat as a surprise, when factoring in the huge amount of money he'll likely forfeit by signing with an MLB club as an international free agent under the new rules imposed by the collective-bargaining agreement.
Yahoo's Jeff Passan reported Wednesday that Otani, now with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, would rather showcase his tremendous talents at the highest levels, instead of stay in Japan, continue to earn top dollar, then come over to America when he could maximize his earning potential.
But such is not the case, as it turns out.
A year ago in the Japan Pacific League, Otani went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA, striking out 174 in 140 innings of work. He tossed four complete games, averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings, and walked just 45 batters. Per Passan, one scout has called Otani "one of the five best pitchers in the world."
If that wasn't enough, Otani slashed .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs, 67 RBI, 18 doubles, 65 runs and seven stolen bases on the other side of the ball.
Otani's immense talents will make his inversely minuscule salary in MLB one of professional sports' rare anomalies, where a superstar athlete is willing to forego big bucks in lieu of a chance to play against the best in the world. In America, he'll have that opportunity.
Though every MLB club's proverbial mouth waters at the prospect of a two-way stud like Otani joining their team, the Yankees have long been linked to the young sensation, but the posting process necessary to bring Otani to the Majors still has to play out.
As Passan explains:
"First, the league and Nippon Professional Baseball need to agree on a new posting system, according to sources. While the current version caps the posting fee paid to the Japanese team at $20 million, the sides continue to negotiate new terms and are expected to settle on a new deal before November, sources said. The fee is likely to remain flat, allowing Otani to shop for his preferred team, as opposed to the past, when it was part of a blind bidding and handcuffed the player to the major league team that bid the most.
Once Nippon Ham posts Otani - something to which they've agreed already, according to the Japanese reports - he will have a window during which he can choose his new team. The international money will be treated as a signing bonus, and Otani ... will sign a minor league contract."
The young slugger/ace will soon have the luxury of hand-picking the MLB team he wishes to play for, and the Yankees will do everything in their power to sell Otani, one of the most sought-after free agents in years, on the merits of Bronx baseball.
Many suspect Otani will choose an American League club to take advantage of serving as a designated hitter on days in which he doesn't pitch, but the Dodgers, Cubs and Padres have all worked tirelessly with their scouting departments to try and get a competitive edge in signing him.
Baseball's free agency window is never short on unexpected twists, turns and surprises, but the arrival of Otani is sure to bring an entirely different level of intrigue to the process as MLB's 30 clubs scramble to court a player that could potentially be a franchise-altering talent.