Yesterday, we learned that the timeline for a new, finalized MLB-NPB posting agreement is expected to extend on into December (dang it), despite the fact that at last check, it seemed like everyone was on board with a new plan. That plan, reportedly, was something of a one-year extension of the old agreement, which would allow Shohei Ohtani’s NPB team to net $20 million to post him, rather than the mere percentage of his next contract, which is the expected arrangement in the new posting agreement.
There were questions at the time whether the MLB Players Association would have a problem with Ohtani’s old team netting 10 to 20 times as much as Ohtani, himself, but when his team held a press conference to announce they were letting him go to the States – a press conference which came shortly after all sides met to work out a new deal – it was fair to assume the MLBPA was on board with whatever arrangement was coming.
Turns out: nope.
The reason for the holdup in the finalized new posting agreement reported yesterday? Per Jon Heyman, he MLBPA is *not* on board with an approach that would send so much more to Ohtani’s old team than the player himself receives.
More than that, Heyman’s reporting suggests the MLBPA has raised longer-term concerns with the posting agreement, and is actively countering with demands of their own.
The most interesting wrinkle here emerges when you start thinking about incentives. Not only is the MLBPA probably trying to do right by Ohtani, but they have their entire membership and its long-term interests to consider. And when you have in front of you a possible future member who could sign for $3 million … or $200 million, you’d be strongly incentivized to “convince” him to wait two more years to sign, when he’s no longer restricted by the IFA rules.*
In other words, is there a chance that the union is using its position as a required party to the new posting agreement to hold up the process so they can try to force Ohtani into waiting two more years to come to the States, when he’d be in line for a much, much more substantial payday?
Well, it’s a possibility, according to Heyman’s sources: “But management sources wonder whether the union’s complaints about the future arrangement are a ‘backdoor’ attempt to aid Otani, or even a way to ‘discourage’ Otani from coming over now.”
I get the layers of interest here, but, in the end, you’d certainly hope the Players Association wouldn’t unilaterally block a 23-year-old player from coming to MLB when he’s ready and desiring to do so, even if they can convince themselves they have his best interests at heart. If Ohtani wants to come now, and if the team that controls his rights is ready to post him now, the Players Association should figure out a way to let it happen.
The Cubs thing I have to mention: I’m not saying I’m rooting for a longer wait for Ohtani, because, sincerely, I want to see the guy do what he wants to do (and I also want to see him in MLB). But I do have to point out that if he did wait until he were a totally free-and-clear free agent in two years, it would see the Cubs would have a better chance to sign him than they do today, given their IFA restrictions.
Read Heyman’s report for more on the situation, which is all kinds of thorny. I still expect we’ll see an agreement worked out in the coming weeks, but it’s possible the delay on Ohtani could be even longer than we were thinking yesterday.
UPDATE: Just as I published, Heyman tweeted a very important update to this story:
Breaking: players union sets Monday deadline to resolve posting issue. So in 4 days otani could know if he'll be able to jump to mlb in '18.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 16, 2017
So, they’re really pushing this thing. And clearly, the union recognizes the need for this to be resolved quickly so that other players aren’t left twiddling their thumbs for too long if some teams are waiting to make other offseason decisions until Ohtani is resolved. He’s that potentially impactful.
*(You should note that the union agreed to those changed IFA rules in last year’s CBA, which increased the age of players subject to IFA restrictions from 23 to 25.)