Although things may have progressed slowly, we may FINALLY be reaching that point in the offseason where 23-year-old ace/slugger Shohei Ohtani becomes a free agent.
In fact, that day is most likely going to be Friday:
plan is for ohtani to be posted friday. interested teams must commit to paying the nippon ham fighters 20M. ohtani hasn't been about the $ but the teams with the most international $ to spend are tex (3.53M), nyy (3.5M), minn (3M), pitts (2M) and sfg (1.8M).
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 28, 2017
According to Jon Heyman, Ohtani will be posted by his Japanese team this Friday, which means all MLB teams will be given the opportunity to bid (up to $20M) for the right to negotiate a contract with him. Of course, only the top bidder will actually get to negotiate with Ohtani … but there can be a tie, which is why you’ll likely see all 30 teams bid the maximum (you get it back if you don’t sign him anyway, so there’s really no risk).
Once that happens, Ohtani will be able to sign with any team that bid the maximum with one big caveat: because of his age, his earning capacity will be restricted by the IFA bonus rules. That means that the most he’ll be able to sign for is about $3.5 million – though that total varies from team to team. The Cubs, for reference, can offer only $300,000, which is on the low end of the spectrum. There are rumors that under-the-table extensions will be negotiated a year or more in advance, but the league will be keeping an extra close eye on that.
Similarly, there have been concerns that big market teams (like the Cubs and Yankees) might use “sponsors” to get Ohtani more money indirectly. You know, like Ohtani becomes a “Budweiser Ambassador” or something, gets a ton of money, and then suddenly the Cubs are cutting Budweiser a break on their in-stadium advertising wink-wink-nudge-nudge.
But Peter Gammons and at least one NL GM have heard that ain’t gonna fly:
To concerns that Yanks, Dodgers or Cubs could use sponsors to get Ohtani $10M marketing deal, Commissioner's Ofis insists "marketing dollars would be against the rules and we could penalize the club for doing it." One NL GM:"Bigtime penalties."
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) November 28, 2017
Although these so-called “big-time penalties” for such a move are clearly warranted, it does hurt to see the one tiny potential Cubs advantage fly out the window before we even heard of it, but maybe that’s for the best.
In any case, Ohtani is said to be not prioritizing money (after all, if he waited just two more years he could have come to the states as a true free agent and signed a deal worth $200 million or more), so maybe the Cubs still have a fighting chance (or maybe it’ll depend on their answers to his questionnaire). Rarely are all 30 teams in on one player, but this time around, it’s happening.
And to that end, Jon Morosi (MLB.com) goes over some of the most likely landing spots including the presumed favorites (Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers), the contenders (Mariners, Red Sox, Cubs), the darkhorses (Giants, Twins), and everybody else.
Although Morosi concedes that the Cubs $300K bonus will be on the low end of offers, he suggests that it would be foolish to overlook Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Joe Maddon’s creativity. “If they produce a recruitment video, as expected, it will be one of the most elaborate Ohtani sees.” Morosi also guesses that the history of Wrigley Field, Epstein’s good relationship with Ohtani’s agency, and his familiarity with Japanese baseball (Epstein signed Daisuke Matsuzaka during his time in Boston) could be a much-needed edge.
But again, every single team in baseball is looking to get a piece of Ohtani – he’s probably the most hyped international free agent … ever. Just take a look at the Nationals’ serious sales pitch, as relayed by General Manager Mike Rizzo at MLB.com. Every team is going to push like this! Yes, the Cubs will probably be very good in their sales pitch, but there are still hurdles that are locked in against them, including geography, the lack of a DH, and the small bonus pool.
So all we can do is wait for him to be posted on Friday and then … hope.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.