Two-way threat Shoehei Ohtani* has said he wants to come play in the United States and, earlier this week, hired a U.S. agent. But the official mechanism necessary to get him here is for his club, the Nippon Ham Fighters, to formally post him.
That official mechanism has been activated. From Kyodo News:
The Nippon Ham Fighters said Friday they will allow slugging ace Shohei Otani to use the posting system this offseason to try to land a deal with a major league team.
“Everyone in our ballclub accepts his thoughts,” Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama told a press conference at a Tokyo hotel concerning the 23-year-old two-way player’s intention to move to the big leagues.
NPB and Major League Baseball’s posting system expired on October 31, but it was reported earlier this week that the two sides have a tentative agreement to renew it, so that shouldn’t be an obstacle.
Ohtani is one of the best, youngest and most unique talents to ever come out of Japan. He’s only 23 but has already established himself as both an ace pitcher and a star slugger, with a 42-15 record with an ERA of 2.52 and a K/BB ratio of 624/200 in 543 innings while batting .286 with 48 home runs and 166 RBI in 1,140 plate appearances.
Since there is now a cap on international signing bonuses for players of Ohtani’s age and experience, his salary will not be high, so most teams will at least make an effort to sign him. In light of that cap, however, Ohtani is going to be looking to sign with a club where he can (a) maximize his non salary earnings via endorsements and the like; while (b) setting himself up for a lucrative long-term extension after his initial deal runs its course. Which is to say that it’s gonna be a freakin’ sweepstakes, with all manner of interesting considerations entering his decision making process.
The free agent class is rather weak this year, but between this and Giancarlo Stanton’s likely trade, we should still have a lot of wood in the old hot stove.
*Until today we’ve been referring him to “Otani,” but after a lot of research — including reading this excellent piece — we’ve come to the conclusion that “Ohtani” is the better spelling. This is not so cut-and-dry as you’d imagine, actually. He spells it “Ohtani” on his jersey, but the hiccups of Japanese-to-English translation suggest that either is both acceptable yet, at the same time, not quite right. Given that he prefers Ohtani, however, and given that you should, 100% of the time, call people what they wish to be called, not what you think they should be called, we’ll be going with “Ohtani” going forward.