Given the outsized importance of Shohei Otani and the off-the-charts unpredictability of his free agency, we’re going to update you folks on all things Otani in the coming months. Obsessive Shohei Otani Watch? Yeah, that’s coming.
In this edition, I pass along a write-up from Buster Olney on the situation, in which he circumnavigates the unpredictable waters of Otani’s impending posting, and how little anyone seems to know about it. At last check, we discussed the surprisingly small bonus pools available to Otani if he comes this offseason, and how the size of those pools – $3.5 million at the largest – make it all the more possible that Otani could decide to sign with a team like the Cubs, who can offer him a meager $300,000 signing bonus thanks to IFA penalty restrictions.
Olney gets into that same topic, and also considers the ways teams might try to help “make up” the difference between that relative pittance and Otani’s $200-ish million market value. Attempts to bypass the IFA rules will be a no-go, but, as we’ve discussed, a pre-arbitration extension for a young superstar would not be out of the ordinary for any player, and that’s what should be expected for Otani. The question is, how does a team “promise” that kind of extension without running afoul of MLB? Some evaluators believe, according to Olney, that Otani’s choice of agent will tell us a lot about that situation – having the right agent with the right team relationships could help with the trust factor in this kind of signing.
One way or another, Otani is probably going to get a huge extension after a year or two with his new team.
The expectation, by the way, is that the new team will probably be in one of the major markets for a variety of reasons. That’s good for the Cubs, though they were always going to have to compete with New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas, and San Francisco in this process. I could speculate on the special angles for Chicago (where Otani could be THE Asian sports superstar), but the truth is no one yet knows what Otani really cares about. Since he clearly is not as much about the money as most players, it’s difficult to know what’s going to drive his decision.
It is just going to be so fascinating to watch this process, and dream on the possibility that the Cubs could land one of the world’s most talented pitchers … at age 23. With a huge bat.