As soon as the Players Association meets with Shohei Otani’s representatives, they can give their blessing to MLB and NPB (Japan’s professional baseball league) to extend the current free agent posting system for an additional year. Once all of that happens, Otani’s team, the Nippon-Ham Fighters, can post the 23-year-old two-way superstar, and he’ll finally be free to negotiate with any Major League team.
Of course, how much Otani can actually get in a deal has remained somewhat of a mystery, as the remaining bonus pool balances of teams not associated with any IFA restrictions (like the Cubs) were a bit difficult to pin down.
We knew that the Rangers and Yankees were near the top of the list, at around $3.5 million, and we knew the Cubs (among others who are IFA-penalty-boxed) were limited to just $300,000. But what about the whole kit and caboodle?
Thanks to figures compiled by MLB, obtained by the Associated Press, and shared by USA today (I told you … difficult) – we have more clarity.
Below are the total dollar amounts any team give Otani (barring any additional trades (though even that excludes the 12 penalized teams capped at $300K)) in a contract this winter:
Texas Rangers — $3,535,000
New York Yankees — $3,250,000
Minnesota Twins — $3,245,000
Pittsburgh Pirates — $2,266,750
Miami Marlins — $1,740,000
Seattle Mariners — $1,570,500
Philadelphia Phillies — $900,000
Milwaukee Brewers — $765,000
Arizona Diamondbacks — $731,250
Baltimore Orioles — $660,000
Boston Red Sox — $462,000
Tampa Bay Rays — $440,500
Atlanta Braves – $300,000
Chicago Cubs – $300,000
Chicago White Sox – $300,000
Cincinnati Reds – $300,000
Houston Astros – $300,000
Kansas City Royals – $300,000
Los Angeles Dodgers – $300,000
Oakland Athletics – $300,000
St. Louis Cardinals – $300,000
San Diego Padres – $300,000
San Francisco Giants – $300,000
Washington Nationals – $300,000
Detroit Tigers — $159,500
Los Angeles Angels — $150,000
New York Mets — $150,000
Toronto Blue Jays — $50,000
Cleveland Indians — $10,000
Colorado Rockies — $10,000
Obviously, by this alone, you might be inclined to think that the Rangers, Yankees, and Twins have a huge advantage as the only three teams capable of paying Otani more than $3 million, but that might not actually be the case (well, it might be, but it also might not be – such is the extreme oddity of Otani’s impending free agency).
If you click through and follow this conversation between Evan Grant (Rangers beat writer) and Buster Olney (ESPN) on Twitter, you’ll find two knowledgeable baseball minds openly wondering about, and ultimately deciding against, money being the deciding factor in Otani’s free agent journey.
“If he enters MLB in ’18,” Buster Olney writes, “he will have bypassed $200+M opportunity in ’19-20. Could a few hundred thousand be difference-making this winter for someone in that mindset? We’ll see.”
Now, to the detriment of the Cubs, it sure sounds like Olney and Grant, who, like me, both agree that a few hundred thousand shouldn’t make a difference, aren’t necessarily suggesting that all teams have an even footing here. More accurately, it would seem that they’re saying the $300K difference between the Rangers and the Yankees/Twins wouldn’t be an issue, not that money – in general – won’t be a factor.
After all, is there much point in being on one team or another for just $300K more? Probably not. But do things change when that difference becomes $3 million? Yah, maybe. Probably, even. So to that end, the Cubs are still at a pretty significant disadvantage versus the six teams that could offer $1.5 million or more.
THEN AGAIN, if Otani’s agency and his new MLB team are able to work out some sort of mega-extension under-or-beside-or-around-the-table for a year from now, this all becomes moot. Because that $3 million difference today could wind up dwarfed by the ultimate difference in extension offers. Maybe that will matter. Maybe it won’t.
Ah. So much mystery and so much drama. That’s what happens when a superstar 23-year-old only kinda-sorta hits the market.