With a new posting agreement agreed to, Japanese star Shohei Ohtani will be posted next week, and made available to MLB teams.
The 23-year-old ace/slugger will be subject to international free agency rules, which means the maximum signing bonus he can receive will be around $3.5 million, instead of the $200+ million he could plausibly receive if he waited just two years until he was a true free agent. (And the maximum he could receive from a team in the IFA penalty box like the Cubs is $300,000.) Once he signs, he’ll be just like any other player who comes with the usual six+ years of team control. Clearly, maximizing his dollars this moment in time is not his number one goal in free agency.
So … what is his number one goal? What exactly is he looking for in a team? That’s been the subject of a great deal of debate for the past year, and we’ll get the answer soon enough. But first, he wants to get the answer from the very teams that are pursuing him.
Per multiple reports, Ohtani’s agent sent a memo to all 30 MLB teams asking them to lay out how and why he would fit in with their club. The request is not about money, but instead is about giving him an initial sense of how he could be incorporated into a particular club.
The seven points for the teams to address, per the LA Times:
- An evaluation of Shohei’s talent as a pitcher and/or a hitter.
- Player development, medical, training and player performance philosophies and capabilities.
- Major League, Minor League, and Spring Training facilities.
- Resources for Shohei’s cultural assimilation.
- A detailed plan for integrating Shohei into the organization.
- Why the city and franchise are a desirable place to play.
- Relevant marketplace characteristics.
It’s a little unusual for a free agent to assign MLB teams homework so explicitly like this, but those all seem like very reasonable issues for a player in Ohtani’s situation to suss out. I’m sure he already had his favorites in mind, but it can’t hurt to hear from everyone to separate the wheat from the chaff.
As for the Cubs, it seems like they’d have a pretty darn good answer for numbers 2, 3, 4, and 6 just by virtue of the state of their organization. I’m also sure the front office can put together bang-up answers for numbers 1, 5, and 7. Where they will be able to do only so much, though, is not having an extensive past history with Japanese players like some other organizations, not having a marketplace that already features a significant connection to Japanese players/culture/markets, and not having the designated hitter available.
The Cubs will try. They will do a great job on an assignment like this. I do think we have to be honest that they’re way behind the 8-ball, though.
Oh, but Cubs? Make sure you tell Ohtani about the robust and affectionate Cubs blogging culture, which will turn his GIFs into poetry. Maybe that seals the deal.