Koji Sasahara/Associated Press
Japanese baseball star Shohei Otani will reportedly play Major League Baseball next season.
On Tuesday, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports cited multiple Japanese reports and noted Otani—who is both a pitcher and an outfielder—will be posted during the upcoming offseason and free to sign with MLB teams.
Passan delved into the timing and process with the 23-year-old and noted Otani “is giving up literally hundreds of millions of dollars” by coming to the United States at the reported time. He explained the maximum Otani can receive is $10.1 million because “MLB rules keep teams from treating international players under 25 as true free agents.”
As a result, Passan called the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers “plenty big threats” even though they have $300,000 to spend as a bonus on Otani. He pointed to the intrigue for the upcoming free agency that will extend beyond which team can offer the most money:
Jeff Passan @JeffPassan
Can’t think of a free agency as fascinating as Otani’s will be. Think about it: Free agency where money almost literally isn’t a factor. 5/5
According to Thomas Lott of Omnisport (h/t Sporting News), Otani’s team in Japan—the Nippon Ham Fighters—must post him and approve of his right to negotiate with an MLB team since he isn’t eligible for free agency in Japan until following the 2021 campaign.
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times noted there were scouts representing 16 MLB teams in attendance for the Fighters’ Tuesday game because Otani pitched. Hernandez called him the best pitcher and hitter in Japan although pointed out injuries to his hamstring and ankle have forced him to serve primarily as a hitter this season.
Hernandez provided a quick scouting report on last year’s Pacific League MVP and said he’s touched 102.5 mph on the radar gun as a pitcher and drilled 500-foot homers as a left-handed hitter who boasts speed comparable to Ichiro Suzuki’s.
Otani helped the Fighters win the Japan Series last year and will reportedly be available to help an MLB team lift a World Series trophy as soon as next year given Tuesday’s news.