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REPORT: MLB Not Currently Inclined to Create CBA Exception for Shohei Otani

Chicago Cubs Rumors, MLB News and Rumors

Our hearts and hopes are just going to keep getting battered back and forth on this, aren’t they?

The latest twist in the short-lived Shohei Otani saga comes from Ken Rosenthal, who answers one of our outstanding questions about whether the new Collective Bargaining Agreement would prevent Otani from seeking a true free agent contract if he were posted next offseason, as it sounds like his team intends.

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That question? If Otani is indeed otherwise subject to the CBA’s restrictions on signing international free agents until he’s 25 years old, would MLB and the MLBPA create some kind of exception to get Otani to come over sooner?

The current answer? Nope:

We’ll see if those “current” inclinations change in the coming months when MLB and NPB negotiate their posting agreement – although that agreement cannot supersede the CBA, it’s possible that those talks will push MLB in a different direction.

I say it that way, because this is not good news for Otani or his team in Japan. (And also, yeah, it’s really bad news for the Cubs, who are currently in the IFA penalty box, and, if Otani is subject to IFA rules and comes over next offseason, the Cubs cannot offer him more than $300,000. Which, yeah. Not happening.)


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Consider: if Otani, 22, is subject to IFA restrictions, that means he can sign for, at most, approximately $6 million. That is his signing bonus, and he would then be subject to normal team control rules – he’d be giving up six or seven years of service time for $6 million, plus near big league minimum for his first three years, and then arbitration raises for his next three. It’s a dream scenario for the signing teams, who would commit a maximum of $26 million ($6 million to Otani, and then a $20 million posting fee to his team in Japan), but it would be a nightmare for Otani, who could otherwise command as much as $200 million or more on the open market, given his extreme skill set and youth.

Even if it were permissible for Otani to sign a one-year deal for that $6 million, and then be granted free agency thereafter (a contractual right often given to experienced players from NPB), coming now would still be a terrible deal. He risks the downside of showing in that year that he’s not quite what the industry thought, and could cost himself tends of millions of dollars. If he simply waits a couple more years in Japan, continuing to dominate there, he’d still have the cachet to sign for an enormous contract, with much less risk. (This is to say nothing of the fact that an MLB team would have to be willing to pay $26 million for one year of Otani. It’s possible, but not all that desirable.)


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This whole thing is a mess of the highest order, because MLB is staring in the face of one of the most uniquely talented baseball players in the world, who wants to join their league, and telling him he has to make a very difficult choice: come now for relative peanuts or wait much longer.

The league – and its players, by extension – should be falling over itself to get an international star like Otani, with his 100mph fastball and dome-crushing bat, into MLB.


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I’m not closing any doors just yet. There’s time for MLB and its players to work this out.


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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor of Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.

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