Although Japanese superstar Shohei Otani is still tentatively expected to sign with a Major League team this winter, Joel Sherman (New York Post) writes that things may have just gotten a whole lot more complicated.
On Tuesday, the MLB-NPB deal granting Japanese teams upwards of $20M for posting their players before they hit free agency expired.We’ve long known about the impending expiration of the posting agreement, but a new agreement coming was always expected. Thus, in the expiring agreement’s place, a new deal, wherein the NPB team losing a player would get a percentage of his new MLB contract (something in the 15-20% range) – was agreed to in principle.
I say in principle, because there was one notable exception: The Nippon Ham Fighters – Otani’s current team – wanted Otani to be grandfathered into the old rules not the new agreement. Why? Well, under the old agreement the Fighters were sure to get the full $20M posting fee as consolation for giving up Otani early. Under the new agreement, however, they’d get just 15-20% of the roughly $3.5M Otani is likely to get this winter*. Obviously, that’s an enormous difference.
Fortunately, MLB wants Otani over here ASAP (he’s got star power), so they are willing to make an exception for Otani and allow the Fighters to get their full $20M as they would have in the past.
Unfortunately, MLB cannot make that exception without approval from the Players Association and … surprise! They’re not on board.
According to the New York Post, the Players Association is “concerned about the precedent and fairness of the player receiving, say, $300,000 and his former team $20 million.” And frankly, that’s an understandable position from the union on both fronts. Indeed, that second point is exactly why the rule has been changed to a percentage-based system in the first place – now, players stand to make more than their former team – before, that was not necessarily the case.
So here’s the bottom line, unless the NPB, MLB, and Players Association can come to an agreement on Otani’s exemption, he’s not likely to be posted this winter. And if he’s not posted this winter, he’ll likely spend the next TWO seasons in Japan, so that he can come over to MLB as an unrestricted free agent when he turns 25 and earn upwards of $200M (waiting just one additional year is sure to be worth the larger contract).
Moreover, it’s fair to wonder what might happen to the new MLB-NPB posting agreement if the Fighters don’t get their way. After all, this new agreement does seem to favor the players (and, thus, Players Association) more than the NPB teams, so maybe that’ll be changed or delayed, too.
Given how badly MLB covets Otani (did I mention he has serious star power?) though, I’m guessing they’ll do everything they can to get the Players Association to play ball – perhaps engaging again on some of the impending and unilateral changes expected in 2018 (though that’s just my own speculation).
I’m still betting on Otani coming over this winter, but, for the first time in a long time, there’s a very real question. And what’s crazier is that the actual MLB-NPB relationship (and maybe a rule or two) can all hinge on a 23-year-old Japanese player.
This is turning into quite the drama. So we obsess.
*The new CBA rules designate that all foreign players under 25 years old (previously 23) are restricted by the IFA bonus pools, which were, themselves, just reduced and hard-capped.
Now, the most a team can offer a player is something around $10-$11M. However, because many teams have already spent most of their bonus pools this period, estimates suggest the most Otani could get from any one club is something around $3.5M – a far cry from the $200M he’d likely earn as an unrestricted free agent.