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Shohei Otani wants to play in the United States next year

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According to Jim Allen of Kyodo News, Shohei Otani, the “Japanese Babe Ruth” for his combined pitching-slugging prowess, wants to leave the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, enter the posting system this winter and play for a major league team in 2018.

There is no question about his readiness for Major League Baseball. Otani, who would be a starting pitcher here, has a 102 mile per hour fastball and routinely sits in the high 90s, profiles as one of the best pitchers in baseball. While his year has been shortened this year due to early season injuries — he’s pitched in only two games, working out the rust — last year he posted a 1.86 ERA, struck out 174 in 140 innings across 21 games . . . and hit .322/.416/.588 with 27 home runs as a designated hitter.

The question for Otani all along was whether he would bother to come to the United States given the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s highly restrictive cap on international signees. Whereas, before this year, Japanese players were essentially free agents, with a large posting fee given to their NPB team, major league clubs’ collective international bonuses are capped at less than $10 million. As Jeff Passan notes in his column, some shuffling and trading of cap space will allow a few teams to give Otani close to $10 million or so, but that’s it. A number of other teams, including the Dodgers and Cubs, face far more restrictive bonus caps given their previous international spending.

All of which means that Otani will not make much money by coming here. He’ll get his few million as a signing bonus but then will be just like any amateur getting called up to a big club: he’ll be under team control for six years, in the first three of which his salary will be set by the big club and will likely not exceed a million dollars. In years 3-6 he’ll be arbitration eligible. After six years — during all of which the big club can manipulate his service time — he’ll be eligible for free agency. Otani is 23 now, so he’ll still be in line for a big free agent deal at some point, but compared to Japanese players who have come to the U.S. in the past, he’ll be working for peanuts.

None of which seems to concern him. He wants to play in the best league in the world, it seems. And even with the financial restrictions in place, it’s hard to blame him.

 

Report: Blue Jays and Marco Estrada nearing agreement on contract extension

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Jon Morosi reports that the Blue Jays and starter Marco Estrada are nearing an agreement on a contract extension. The deal is expected to be for one guaranteed year, Morosi adds.

Estrada, 34, was set to become a free agent after the season. He earned $26 million on a two-year contract signed with the Jays in November 2015. While the right-hander has a subpar 4.84 ERA on the season, he has a solid 170/67 K/BB ratio in 176 2/3 innings and has looked much better since the end of July. Between July 31 and his most recent start on Saturday, Estrada owns a 3.75 ERA.

J.A. Happ is the only other starter technically under contract with the Jays next season. Marcus Stroman will be eligible for his second year of arbitration and the Jays will certainly agree to give him a raise on his $3.4 million salary for the 2017 season. The Jays will likely be active this offseason in adding rotation help and they’re starting early by locking up Estrada.

Video: Jackie Bradley, Jr. robs Chris Davis of a home run

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Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. robbed Orioles first baseman Chris Davis of his 25th home run on Tuesday evening, leaping at the fence in center field to make the catch and keep the game scoreless in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Davis swung at the first pitch he saw from Drew Pomeranz, a slider that crossed the middle of the plate.

This game has potential playoff implications, as the first-place Red Sox hold a three-game lead over the Yankees in the NL East. Meanwhile, the Orioles are still in the AL Wild Card race, trailing the Twins by 5.5 games for the second Wild Card slot.