At long last, after months (years, really) of rumors, speculation, hopes, and dreams, 23-year-old ace/slugger Shohei Ohtani will be posted by his Japanese team, and made available to Major League Baseball. The last hurdle was the formal ratification of the new posting agreement between MLB and NPB, and that came down this afternoon.
Each of the teams will now have the opportunity to bid on the right to sign him, up to $20 million (every interested team will bid that maximum), and then whichever team actually signs him will owe that money to the Nippon-Ham Fighters.
Ohtani will have three weeks to choose his team (by midnight on December 22), which means some club is about to get a serious early Christmas present. It’s not known exactly how long Ohtani will take or which teams he’ll meet with, but I’d imagine – thanks in part to his take-home assignment for clubs and his advisors’ knowledge of the teams – he already has a short-ish list of teams he’ll seriously entertain.
We also don’t know how shifty or shady this negotiation process is going to get, with very little money available to offer him right now and the explicit promise of a long-term extension forbidden. The Commissioner’s Office will be watching closely, and the moment he chooses his team, 29 other teams will immediately become suspicious about how the other got it done.
I can’t wait to see where this goes, and to see if the Cubs really will be able to get a foot in the door. Earlier today, we discussed the possibility that not having a Japanese star already associated closely with the organization could actually help their pursuit, and we also recently discussed their willingness to let him both pitch and play in the outfield.