Reports from multiple MLB insiders say that Japanese RHP/DH Shohei Ohtani has hired Creative Artists Agency to represent him in the United States. The reports stated further that “Baseball co-head Nez Balelo will be the lead agent,” per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
Balelo also represents Andre Ethier, Adam Jones, Ryan Braun and Jean Segura.
This, when confirmed, would be a huge step towards Ohtani making the jump from Nippon Professional Baseball to Major League Baseball. At age-23, he would be held to the International Bonus Pool system, and could receive at most a $5.75 million signing bonus on a minor league deal. Despite that limitation, Ohtani appears open to making that move.
The Yankees began the year with $4.75 in bonus money, and Ken Davidoff reports the maximum Ohtani could get from the team would be a $3.25 million signing bonus. Any deal he signs would put him under team control for at least six years.
Ohtani is a career .286/.358/.500 hitter with 48 home runs and 166 RBIs for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. He also owns a 42-15 pitching record, with a 2.52 ERA and a 10.3 K/9 rate. He also owns a career .990 fielding percentage in the outfielder (65 games), having made just one error. This combination of skills gives him the potential to be a two-way star.
The other obstacle that is stopping Ohtani from coming to the MLB is a dispute between MLB, the players’ association and NPB. Joel Sherman of the NY Post reported that the MLB-NPB posting agreement (how players cross the Pacific) expired last Tuesday.
From Sherman’s article:
“The sides, though, were close to an agreement to move to a system whereby the Japanese team losing a player to MLB would receive a percentage of the deal the player signed with an MLB club — believed to be between 15 and 20 percent.
However, Ohtani’s team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, refused to give its needed vote to the deal unless the righty pitcher was grandfathered into the old deal, whereby the Fighters would receive the maximum $20 million in exchange for posting him prior to his Japanese free agency.”
No posting agreement can be made without the agreement of the players association, and that has stalled because the union does not want MLB and NPB making an exception specifically for Ohtani.
Many experts have tied Ohtani to the Yankees since he fits their youth movement, and would be a dynamic piece of their roster because of his skills to pitch, hit and field. Only time will tell if he will make the move to MLB.