During the early Warring States of China, the concept of chivalry and virtue prevented the executions of messengers sent by opposing sides of battle.
That, according to my very reliable source (W.K. Pedia), is the root of the phrase, “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
Today, I’m going to ask that you appeal to the same sensibilities, and ask that you don’t blame me for the bad news I’m about to deliver.
Unless something dramatic changes, Japanese star pitcher/DH Shohei Otani will not likely be joining the Chicago Cubs, because he is apparently still set on being posted after the 2017 season, when the Cubs will effectively be unable to sign him:
Hideki Kuriyama, Otani's manager in Japan, said Thursday, he still expects him to go in 2018 on minor league deal because it's about game.
— Jim Allen (@JballAllen) December 8, 2016
If you’re unaware, the recently completed Collective Bargaining Agreement changed, among many things, the rules surrounding International Free Agents (IFAs). Before the most recent update, any international player/prospect over the age of 23 was capable of signing with any team in MLB without restrictions. Now, that age has been bumped up to 25. Shohei Otani turns 23 next summer.
In addition, MLB teams are now limited (by a hard cap) on how much they can spend on all IFAs in a single period to a range of pools around $5-6 million (plus another 75% can be acquired via trades). Before the new CBA, certain teams (depending on eligibility) could spend as much they wanted in a period, so long as they were willing to pay the 100% overage in taxes, and be subjected to a two-year penalty period where they cannot sign any players for more than $300,000 apiece. The Cubs, you may recall, entered that penalty one year ago, and will not be out of it until after the 2017-18 signing period. You’re seeing the problem.
So if Otani is to be posted during the 2017-2018 offseason, his bonus (at the high end) will be limited to about $10 million – that is, if the team signing him traded to max out their pool space. From there, he’d just be subject to normal team control. The Cubs, unfortunately, will not be able to offer anything close to that amount, and are effectively out of the running before it even begins.
The only way Otani conceivably ends up in Chicago then, is if he waits until the following offseason where the Cubs restrictions will be limited, or waits until the year after that, when he’ll be 25 and no longer subject to restrictions. If he doesn’t come next year, you can bet he’ll just go ahead and wait two more years for his big payday. But, then, right now it doesn’t sound like that’s what he’s wanting to do.
For a while, there was some hope that MLB would create some sort of exception for Otani (or work out some sort of new deal with the NPB, but with Otani’s report that he’s going to come anyway, there’s no real reason for MLB to change anything (although, they already said that they wouldn’t anyway).
Other teams sharing the same penalty box pain as the Cubs include the Dodgers, Giants, Royals, A’s, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres, and Reds. If Otani does come next year, it’s great news for MLB as a whole, but it’s a bummer for the Cubs (and, well, for Otani who will now earn tremendously less under these rules), but that’s the world of the new CBA.
Don’t shoot the messenger.