shohei otaniYour precursor reminder to why this is all extremely important: Shohei Otani is possibly a generational talent, and the Chicago Cubs could be planning to go all-in on him when he’s made available to MLB teams.

Last week, after the rumors about the Cubs and Japanese ace/stud DH Shohei Otani broke, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was completed, and, with it, a significant change in the international free agency rules would mean that Otani, 22, could not come to MLB and sign the kind of massive contract that would justify him coming sooner rather than later. At the time, we held out hope that, because the way the new IFA rules would operate with respect to Japanese professionals was not entirely clear just yet, there was a chance some kind of exception would be made for Otani, if his team wanted to post him next offseason (i.e., make him available to MLB teams for bidding).

Last night, two things came out that sound very good. First, as discussed in the Lukewarm Stove, there was a report out of Japan that Otani’s team has agreed to post him after this upcoming season.

One thing we couldn’t quite glean from the report, though, was whether they would post him even though he’d be subject to IFA restrictions (and could thus sign for no more than about $6 million (which would make you wonder why he would want to be posted right now)), or whether there would be some kind of way around those rules for Otani. If the team is posting him, I’m assuming they already know there will be a way around the rules, and, now the second thing that came out that sounds very good:

So, then. There is a very good chance Otani is coming after this season, and there is at least some chance his market won’t be restricted by the IFA rules. That’s great news for the Cubs, if they’re indeed interested in him, but there is one caveat: because the Cubs blew out their IFA spending pool in the 2015-16 period, they are in the penalty box for the next two periods (the one that ends this coming June, and then the year after that, too). They cannot sign any IFA players for more than $300,000. Obviously Otani will get far more than that, so the question is: will there simply be ways that Otani can sign for more than the $6-ish million team spending pool (but is otherwise still considered an IFA, which would mean the Cubs can’t realistically sign him because of their own penalty limit), or will Otani not be subject to any of the IFA restrictions at all (making him a true free agent on whom a team like the Cubs can go whole hog)?

My guess is that it would be strange to say that Otani is an IFA for team penalty purposes, but not for team spending pool purposes. If he’s untethered from the IFA restrictions – however that is accomplished – I’d expect it to be a total untethering.

We’ll see what happens in the coming months. I wonder if the next step we’ll see is a renegotiation of the MLB-NPB posting agreement, and perhaps there will be a special carveout in there that redefines the IFA restrictions with respect to experienced NPB professionals (only).

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