Get ready for a lot of coverage of Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani as free agency starts to heat up. A report from the Associated Press indicates that the Yankees have the second highest bonus pool available to give Ohtani.
Their amount, $3.25 million, comes just $285,000 short of the $3,535,000 that the Texas Rangers could give to arguably this offseason’s most intriguing free agent. The MLB, MLBPA and NPB still must negotiate a new posting system so that Ohtani (a player still under rights to a Japanese team) can be made available to teams in America.
It’s intriguing that the top two teams with bonus money are also teams that recently signed Japanese pitchers. The Rangers paid $51.7 million to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the 2011 offseason just to negotiate with Yu Darvish, who then signed to a 6-year, $60 million deal with the team prior to 2012. Darvish remained in Texas until the trade deadline in 2017, when he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for prospects Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy and Brendon Davis. He is now a free agent.
The Yankees made a big splash after the 2013 season by signing Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka, a star with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, signed a seven-year contract worth $155 million after the Yankees paid a $20 million negotiation fee. The negotiating fee was much smaller, and his contract much larger, because of the revised posting system that did away with bidding for exclusive negotiating rights. Tanaka had the opportunity to opt out of his contract after the 2017 season, but decided to stay in the Bronx for three more years at $67 million.Embed from Getty Images
By hiring CAA, an MLBPA-approved agency, to represent him in the United States, it appears as though Ohtani is serious about his move across the Pacific. Joel Sherman of the New York Post also reported that MLB and NPB agreed to grandfather the old posting system for one more year. That would mean the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters would get $20 million from the team that signs Ohtani, rather than 15-20 percent like a new rumored agreement dictated. The MLBPA would have to approve this arrangement, though Sherman notes the union had not been notified as of this afternoon.
Since no team can pay Ohtani more than what their bonus pool allows, this free agency simply comes down to recruiting. There are bound to be more interesting developments as the process drags on. It makes sense, given that Ohtani slashed .332/.403/.540 with 8 homers and 31 RBIs in 65 games as a hitter this season. Oh, yeah, he also has a career 2.52 ERA and 10.9 K/9 rate as a starter in the NPB, too. A potential two-way star signing as an amateur player is bound to draw attention, and rightfully so.Embed from Getty Images