Shohei Otani, the Japanese superstar being labeled as the “Japanese Babe Ruth,” is most likely going to apply for free agency to play in the Major Leagues, ending a five-year career in the Japanese Professional Baseball Association. If that does, indeed, happen, he will offer one of the most intriguing MLB free agent cases we have seen in quite awhile in Major League Baseball.
For several reason . . .
Because Otani is still only 23, he can only be signed to a minor-league contract with a cap of $10 million. What that basically means is that there will be no bidding war for Otani, meaning large-market teams like New York, and small-market teams, like Milwaukee, are on the same financial footing going into this free agency period.
But there’s more . . .
Otani offers a unique skill set, a right-handed pitcher capable of speeds hitting 102 mph, with an above-average forkball and slider, but also a left-handed power hitter capable of monstrous homeruns.
And Otani wants to be both in the Major Leagues.
Let the bidding begin!
Otani has reportedly hired a professional sports agent, so his intention are becoming more obvious with each passing day. At his last start for the Nippon Ham Fighters, he twirled a two-hit shutout, fanning twelve, and his performance was watched by no fewer than eleven Major League scouts. The demand is there for sure. In this case, money does not speak and the intangibles do.
Which Major League team can offer a package of intangibles which will appeal to this twenty-three year old flamethrower? The leaders in the race at this point appear to be Los Angeles and Seattle, two teams with a strong Japanese community and a strong history of Japanese players.
There is also a posting fee to consider, but under the current agreement between MLB and the Japanese League, that posting fee is capped at $20 million, meaning the total any team would pay for Shohei Otani would be $30 million. Considering he would likely be able to demand a contract of $200 million or more if he were 25 years old, the $30 million is a bargain for the Ages.
To say the least, this is going to be a fascinating drama to watch as it unfolds this winter.
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