And away we go …
Per reports out of Japan (cited here and here, among other places), the Nippon-Ham Fighters have posted 23-year-old superstar pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani, making him available to MLB teams. Whatever issues MLB and NPB were having about their expired posting agreement have apparently been smoothed over (reportedly by allowing the old deal to last an additional year), and the MLBPA must have agreed to that revised approach.
So here comes Shohei Ohtani. Whichever team ultimately lands him, one of the world’s most exciting young talents will play in MLB in 2018, and that’s really awesome.
Teams will be able to bid up to $20 million for the right to sign Ohtani (only the team that actually signs him will have to fork over that $20 million to the Nippon-Ham Fighters), and from there, he can sign for only a fraction of that, thanks to the CBA’s limits on international free agents under the age of 25.
We discussed the financial side of this at length yesterday, and the Cubs are among the teams in the IFA penalty box who can offer Ohtani only $300,000 to sign. It’s a disadvantage. How much of a disadvantage remains to be seen.
Once those bids of $20 million are submitted – and any team with even the most remote hope of signing him should bid the full amount – Ohtani and his agent can begin negotiating with teams. I can’t wait to see what that process looks like. My guess is the Cubs have a very nice presentation lined up.
Even as signals have built in recent days that this was coming, I still have to admit: this is a big moment. Just think back to the first rumors that Ohtani would be coming this offseason, despite the fact that he could make literal hundreds of millions more if he waited two years. I was deeply skeptical. Players – for reasons wholly respectable and understandable – simply don’t risk leaving so much money on the table for non-monetary reasons. It just doesn’t happen.
But it’s happening. And we’re entering the most unique free agency I can remember. It is impossible as of this moment to say who might be a leader for Ohtani’s services, what he’ll be focused on, or how teams will be able to try to woo him (financially long-term or otherwise). The only thing we know is that some teams can offer him a much larger bonus than others, and if that $3 million difference is a deciding factor for him, then you can count the Yankees and Rangers as favorites. He’s already shown, though, that he believes he can make up the money difference over the years with his performance, so it’s hard to say that’ll be a decisive factor.
Will the Cubs have a shot? A real shot? Again, I think anyone who says they know for sure this morning is selling snake oil. There’s too much we don’t know about what Ohtani is looking for, and about what teams can promise him in the future. If they can – one way or another – promise a long-term extension in short order, then I’d say, sure, the Cubs will be as aggressive financially as any team. But does he definitely want a chance to DH? Well then you can throw the Cubs out entirely. Does he want the most historic team that can also offer him the most money right now? Well then put Yankee pinstripes on him today.
We just don’t know, and that’s why it’ll be such a fascinating free agency to follow.
IT IS HAPPENING. THE POSTING IS HAPPENING. LET THIS NOT GO UN-SHOUTED. pic.twitter.com/PPIttC8wUl
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) November 10, 2017
UPDATE: Well, it wouldn’t be the most dramatic rose ceremony ever if there weren’t immediately drama. What Ken Rosenthal is implying here is that the Fighters essentially made this announcement before they knew whether the MLBPA would sign off on the grandfathered posting agreement:
One caveat to news that Nippon Ham Fighters will post Ohtani: A new posting agreement still is not in place. @Joelsherman1 reported “tentative understanding” between MLB and NPB, but players’ union must sign off. If Fighters want $20M fee grandfathered and union balks…problem.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 10, 2017
I tend to think the Fighters aren’t going to make the posting known unless they were sure a deal was in place with MLB, but I guess we still don’t technically know yet for certain. Naturally.