ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For months it seemed like a pipe dream. Last week, it became reality: Shohei Otani is coming to a Major League Baseball franchise near you this winter.
Well, maybe not literally near you. But somewhere in North America, and that in and of itself is something of a surprise.
For the uninitiated, Otani is a rare baseball prize, currently playing in Japan. He has the ability to perform as a front-of-the-rotation starter and a middle-of-the-order hitter.
The strange part is, thanks to the timing and something of a glitch in the international free agent system, he’s not going to cost much money.
At 23, Otani is not yet eligible to entertain open bidding for his services the way, say, Rusney Castillo and other international free agents have in the past. Instead, thanks to his age, Otani can only be paid out of each team’s international signing bonus pools, an amount capped by Major League Baseball.
First, Otani will go through the posting system, where each interested team will agree to pay his Japanese team, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, the standard posting fee. Currently, this sits at $20 million, though a new number could be negotiated between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball.
Then, Otani will be free to choose from any club which has agreed to post the fee. The signing bonuses he has to select from won’t vary greatly. They’ll likely range from somewhere between $5 million to $10 million.
Teams are signed bonus pool money based on market size and other factors. Clubs are also allowed to trade for additional international pool money, something the Red Sox have done.