“Baseball Free Agency-Bidding Dollars-Yen”
This will be a fascinating couple of weeks with baseball free agency upon us.
Not just to see where Arizona Diamondbacks slugger JD Martinez winds up, or what the price tag will be on Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish.
But the real gem in the bidding process will be for 6’4 Japanese superstar Shoehi Otani, full-time DH…part-time pitcher…across the board superstar.
It is a different era in international baseball now, with the new Interantional cap for free agents.
The Nippon Ham Fighters will be ‘posting’ Omani within the next couple of weeks.
He falls under a different set of rules for free agents, different than the escpees from Cuba, or the teenage sensations from the Latin America countries.
MLB teams will have to bid 20M to get the chance to make a contract offer to Omani. It’s called a ‘posting fee’….and once the 20M amount is posted, Otani will then be able to listen to offers from any major league club. Nippon gets the posting fee. The player gets the signing bonus and multi year contract with future earnings expected to grow.
But because of the new rules, Otani will not become part of a bidding war. He will remain under the new International Cap rules just effected a couple of years ago.
The max contract he can get from any team will be a 3.5M-signing bonus, spread out over the years of the contract.
But there will be a limit on how many teams can sign him to the max. If you are the Dodgers-Yankees-Red Sox, or even the Padres, and you have exceeded the international cap the last couple of years, the max contract you can offer is 300,000 bonus.
All the other teams, approximately 17-could go as high as the 3M figure, if they wanted to spend all their cap money on one player.
Otani could have stayed in Japan two more years, and would have been a total free agent at age 25, and the cap rules would not apply. But he wants to come to the US now.
Outside of the great veteran Ichuro Suzuki, there have been few from Japan who have made an impact as an everyday player.
Hideo Nomo and Dice Matsuzaka are among the pitchers who had very good success in MLB, as have Yu Darvish and Kenta Maeda, but none became superstars.
Otani might be the first. A right-handed pitcher with a 100mph fastball, he has gone (42-15) over the last three years. When not pitching, he was a DH-outfielder, and hit (.323) for the Ham Fighters on days he was not pitching.
And so questions spreading from the continental US to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Does he want to play in the American League?
Will he demand he be allowed to be a true two position players…DH and pitcher?
Would he go to a New York or Boston, where his signing would be buffeted by marketing side deals that could rake in more money?
Does he want to be a Dodger or a Giant, where the Aisan-American community would embrace him, with franchises that have had great success with Japanese-Korean players?
Does he go with a small market team, where the visibility and pressure would be a lot less?
Will a team allow him to be a two position player, in a sport where we have not had that since the 1950s, in the era of a Bob Lemon?
He has hired the well know “CAA” agency to rep him. Their rep, big dollar deals.
But he is a humble, religious, team-driven guy.
Get your conversion table out, dollars-to-yen, ERA-to-OPS…and get ready for a fascinating couple of weeks to determine where the next star from Japan winds up.