Well, this will grind the Shohei Ohtani express to a halt.
At the owners meetings today, MLB’s Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem told folks that the league hopes to have its new posting agreement with NPB finalized … by early December.
You are reminded that, although Ohtani has said he’s coming to MLB and his team has agreed to post him, that was pending the approval of a new posting agreement between the two leagues. While it’s still expected to be completed in a way satisfactory to all sides and pave the way for Ohtani’s free agent process, it was thought that the reveal that Ohtani was definitely being posted meant the new posting agreement was all but wrapped up.
Not so, it seems. It’ll still probably happen without issue, but the delay here could cause a ripple effect throughout the league’s offseason planning process. Given how many teams might seriously be involved on Ohtani, and given the uncertainty surrounding just how those teams might be able to entice him financially, it’s entirely possible there will be enough teams waiting on Ohtani before they make other substantial moves, which would in turn hold up a number of free agents, which could in turn hold up trade activity, and so on.
Until the posting agreement is official and finalized, Ohtani cannot be posted, and thus cannot be a free agent, and thus cannot start talking to teams. If that doesn’t begin until early December, it’s very possible no decision will have been made – maybe not even serious conversations – by the time the Winter Meetings play out December 10-14.
In fact, it could take quite a bit longer:
In 2014, MLB agreed on new posting system on Dec. 10. #Yankees signed Tanaka on Jan. 22. Just to give you a relative sense from the last time this happened.
— David Lennon (@DPLennon) November 15, 2017
For the Cubs, I don’t know that the timing of Ohtani’s availability will necessarily impact their offseason plans, as they’d be hot on the trail of Ohtani (and willing to commit the future dollars that might come along with that a year or two down the road) regardless of what they do to fill out the rotation.
The possible caveat there is if the Cubs are secretly hot on the trail of Yu Darvish and longer-term dollars need more careful consideration … but then, if the Cubs signed Darvish, they might have a better shot at Ohtani anyway (the two are friends). Otherwise, unless the Cubs are dead set on re-signing Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, I don’t think they’ll necessarily need to wait on Ohtani before making other moves.
Heck, a delay for Ohtani could wind up working in the Cubs’ favor anyway. For example, if the Cubs were to sign Alex Cobb and Miles Mikolas in free agency, they’d be somewhat set in the rotation in case they couldn’t get Ohtani … but not so set that they couldn’t easily accommodate Ohtani if he decided he loves Chicago.