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Shohei Otani has hired a U.S. agent

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Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Japanese star Shohei Otani has chosen CAA to represent him in the United States.

This is significant in that, while Otani had voiced his intention to come to the majors next year, his lack of a U.S. agent suggested that he was not yet fully committed to the plan. Which would be understandable given the financial incentives involved. If he comes next year or in 2019, he’ll be subject to international bonus limitations, which would pay him a fraction of what he’d be worth on the open market. If he waits two more years, he’d not be subject to it. Hiring CAA, however, suggests that he’s planning to make the move now.

There are still some hurdles to jump before Otani can make his way to a U.S. team. Most notably the need for the majors and NPB to work out the details of a new posting system, given that the previous posting system has expired. Assuming that gets taken care of, baseball’s most notable dual threat — Otani is an ace pitcher and an elite slugger — will be on his way to a ballpark near you.

Report: Major League Baseball bans transactions with Mexican League teams

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that Major League Baseball has banned all transactions with Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB), popularly known as the Mexican League. As of now, all 30 teams are prohibited from signing players under contract with LMB teams. The ban was issued due to Major League Baseball’s contention that “corruption” and “fraud” run rampant in the player acquisition process.

Passan describes the issues in detail, and they sound pretty compelling. The upshot: LMB clubs — which have full control over their players — are taking advantage of them, taking most if not all of the signing bonuses MLB teams give them after negotiating for their rights. Mexican teams often sign players when they’re 15 years-old so that, once they are old enough for American teams to approach them, they’re in the position to take a usurious cut.

Passan says Major League Baseball is demanding greater transparency from LMB before it’s willing to lift the ban. He also says that the MLBPA is in “lockstep” with Major League Baseball on the matter, which makes sense given that, if MLB’s claims are accurate, players are being exploited here. He also says that if LMB does not change its ways, there is a “Plan B,” though it’s not clear what that is.

There aren’t a ton of Mexican players signed by MLB teams each year, but there are enough to make this a significant issue that is worth watching.