This weekend, an 18-year-old pitcher from Japan named Shohei Otani announced that he would be foregoing an opportunity to be drafted in the NPB (Japan’s professional baseball league), and instead would be coming straight to the United States. The announcement was unprecedented – there has never before been a candidate to be a top pick in the NPB draft who decided to forego that opportunity in favor of MLB.

Given Otani’s skills and stature – he stands 6’4″ and throws 99-100 m.p.h. – you can understand both his interest in seeking an earlier payday in the U.S., and MLB teams’ interest in landing the young righty.

Sounds like a perfect target for the Cubs, yes? After all, they are pitching starved and have money to burn at the amateur level.

If only it were that simple.

Because Otani has not played in Japan, he is considered a true international amateur free agent, which means his signing would be subject to the new rules regarding international signings. Recall, for the 2012-2013 signing period (begins in early July and ends in mid-June)

Per the new CBA, the penalties for busting your international signing pool are at once similar to, and starkly different from, the penalties for busting your amateur draft pool. The gist, from Baseball America:

Every team has a $2.9 million signing bonus pool for the 2012-13 signing period. Any team that spends more than $2.9 million will be subject to a variety of penalties:

• Teams that go 0-5 percent over will pay a 75 percent tax on the overage.

• Teams that go 5-10 percent over will pay the 75 percent tax on the overage and won’t be able to sign more than one player for a bonus of more than $500,000 in the 2013-14 signing period.

• Teams that go 10-15 percent over will pay a 100 percent tax on the overage and won’t be able to sign any player for a bonus of more than $500,000 in the 2013-14 signing period.

• Teams that go 15 percent or more over will pay a 100 percent tax on the overage and won’t be able to sign any player for a bonus of more than $250,000 in the 2013-14 signing period.

In sum, busting your pool doesn’t prohibit you from signing international players in the future – it just restricts the price tag of, and thus caliber of, the players you can sign. That said, it’s reasonable to believe that, if a team is going to go balls out to sign Otani, they’re going to blow past their $2.9 million cap by far more than 15%. For a number of teams, it would be worth the penalty. The Cubs are already near their $2.9 million cap for the year. Would they risk the penalty? I doubt it.

The best players in a given international class – the ones to whom you’d compare first round draft picks – all sign for well over $250K, even in the newly-restricted environment. In other words, if a team blows its pool in 2012-2013 (this year), it will not be able to sign any of the top players in 2013-2014 (next year) – and that’s true regardless of how much the team in question has available in its pool. The Cubs will have something just shy of $4.8 million to spend in 2013-2014 (we don’t know the precise amount yet, but they’ll have the second highest amount, and the highest amount is $4.8 million), so blowing their cap this year could cause a huge problem next year – it isn’t easy to find 15 to 20 quality prospects worth around $250K apiece, but no more, and 46 $100K prospects (if you could even land that many and had four extra minor league teams (and coaching staffs) on which to play and develop them) is not necessarily better than a few $1.5 million prospects. You’re getting the idea.

While the average international class in a given year is not comparable in talent to the average U.S. draft class, the two aren’t that far off. Would you really want the Cubs to have to sit out the first couple rounds of a hypothetical draft (one in which they had, like, six selections in the first two rounds) so that they could get Otani, alone?

I don’t think I would.

It’s an unfortunate byproduct of the new CBA, which, on the one hand favors the Cubs next year, with a large spending pool, but disfavors them with that same pool – the Cubs have more to lose than most teams by busting through their cap this year. A team that will receive just $1.7 million next year (the lowest amount, around which the best teams this year will receive) can far more easily risk busting their cap this year, because, other than the tax, it might have no tangible impact on what they would have done in the 2013-2014 signing period anyway.

Fiddle sticks.

So, at this point, I don’t see much of a way around this: we have to hope that Otani waits until July to sign. At that point, the Cubs would be in the second best position to sign him, and could possibly even be in a better position to bust their pool, if need be (of course, if the Cubs suck in 2013, they’ll again have a big pool in 2014, and the problem would start anew … ). If he signs before July – which, let’s be honest, is a strong probability – it’s likely to be with a large-market team like the Dodgers or Rangers. They have as much money to spend now, and have much, much less to lose next year. Even if no team is willing to blow its budget to sign Otani, the Cubs have almost no pool money left to spend this year.

In other words, for Otani and the Cubs, it’s probably next July or bust.

UPDATE: BA’s Jim Callis just did a Q&A addressing this very issue, and basically said the same things – Otani is likely to sign before July, and teams will probably be willing to bust their international pool for him.

  • calicubsfan007


  • Ajbearsfan

    Them crud birds lost….that just made a bad season into a great one. I’m a cubs fan that lives in Missouri….ahhhh

  • Jeff

    St. Louis just got a GIANT Ass Whooping!!!!

    • Mr. Cubster

      And they played like a house of CARDS too!!!

  • Cubs1967

    cards lose!!!………..ahahahahhaaaaaaaaaaaaaa……..3-1 lead blown; how cub like… cards like!

    yeah–they’ve won alot of WS; but today they are LOSERS!

    go cubs!

  • someday…2015?

    Before the Bears game tonight I said “even if the Bears win, if the Cardinals go to a second straight world series I won’t go to sleep happy.” IMO it was an extremely productive day in Chicago sports.

  • calicubsfan007

    This is Cubs fans right now

  • MichiganGoat

    Ah I just had a great night of sleep, I dreamed of Cardinal fans tears- it was so relaxing. Thank you Dick Tidrow, thank you, I never doubted your power you are the real reason the Giants kicked the RedBirds arse. Thank you.

  • MichiganGoat

    Ummm now Ryan Theriot will be in back to back WS….. If Theo would have got off his arse we could have had him again…… Attendance would be up……. Ricketts is ccHeap…. LOUD NOISES….. Theriot is the spark this team needs…. I’ve been a Cubs fan longer than you….. Rabble rabble rabble….. THERIOT IS THE KEY

    • Cubs1967

      how 8th grade of you. there’s always one internet fool who hides behind a computer screen attempting to make fun of others. i feel sad for you. good luck at therapy today.

      • MichiganGoat

        What no ….. I guess you’re learning

        • Cubs1967

          grow up man. really. if you get all wet dreaming of theo and ricketts you go for it. we all don’t have to. apparenlty your mother did not teach you manners. what a tough guy you are behind the computer. don’t bother replying; like some people on here; don’t like a post; don’t read it.

          • MichiganGoat

            um you replied to my post, so I guess um…. you should…. listen to yourself…. or one of the voices….. I was just agreeing with you….. Ricketts is cheap, the Cubs could have signed Theriot….. he is the mojo a team needs to get to the world series….. MOAR…..

            btw, get a sense of humor if you post stuff and don’t want anyone to be critical of what you say and don’t see imitation as flattery then you are on the wrong site…. have some freaking fun, the CARDINALS CHOKED all is well with the world

          • Brett

            Ok. The pissing back and forth ends here. You can continue to share your thoughts, but the personal stuff ends now. That goes for everyone, not just you. I will be enforcing this. It’s lame, and not becoming of intelligent discussion.

            • MichiganGoat

              mea culpa not enough sleep and a little drunk with the joy of the Cardinal meltdown has made me silly today, and Dick Tidrow – I love you man

  • Stevie B

    Kick his ass Sea Bass!!!

  • Fastball

    I have a question on signing the kid from Japan. Since he is forgoing the Japanese league and not giving them any control over him that’s great. As an IFA couldn’t he sign with the Cubs for a low sign on bonus which is what the draft pool is and then sign a ML contract for a couple $M a year or what ever it takes? This would be guaranteed money but on the contract side and not on the signing bonus side. I’m not as sharp on the in’s and out’s with these contracts for players as I should be. But it would make sense to me to just offer a long term contract like they did with Soler and get him his money that way. Give a small sign on bonus and then even front load his contract paying him more in the first 2 or 3 years of like a 6 year deal. If that’s possible then why not work out long term contract terms and deliver those to his agent as part of the Entire Deal vs. get all caught up on the signing bonus part of it.

    • Brett

      Nope. That kind of chicanery is forbidden. All IFA’s now get the same kind of contract, and it’s all about the bonus.

  • Fastball

    Nice Work Brett..

    Glad the Cardinals get to go home finally. I got the Giants in WS now I suppose.
    DABEARS!!!! They continue to play Good Enough. I think there is something to be said for not expending anything more than it takes to win. Blow outs don’t necessarily make you any sharper. They played 60 minutes. I like that. I hope Jason Campbell is getting enough reps in practice. I don’t want us getting caught in a jam like could have happened last night. That Suh hit on Cutler reminded me of the hit on McMahon that put his career on a different direction.

  • Chuck

    Lets see, the Cardinals lose their manager, pitching coach, half their starters and arguably the best player in the game and make it to game 7 of the NLCS AFTER winning the world series last year. The Cubs get a new GM, a new president, and 101 losses. Yep, right on target. Much better that the Cards lose than the Cubs win.

  • Kyle

    Prediction: After he signs with the Dodgers, we’ll get an unsourced media report that says the Cubs had the 2nd highest bid.

    • DarthHater

      The bad news is: Kyle is becoming paranoid. The good news is: it’s apparently making his posts shorter.

      • Kyle


        • DarthHater

          My bad. 😉

  • nkniacc13

    Well after he gets picked in the NPB draft he would have to wait until March to be able to sign with a mlb team according to mlbtr. To bad that the international signing bonus doesn’t go into affect until July

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