According to an overnight report by Japan’s Kyodo News, the Nippon Ham Fighters have acknowledged that they will post Shohei Ohtani this off-season, at the 23-year-old pitcher/slugger’s request.
The Associated Press reported this week that Nippon Professional Baseball and Major League Baseball have reached an agreement extending the posting system (which expired October 31) for another year while negotiating a new system — though Jon Paul Morosi (MLB.com) suggests this week that revisions to the process could still be negotiated in the coming days.
Under the existing system, the posting fee (tendered by interested MLB clubs and payable to Nippon Ham by the one who ultimately signs Ohtani) is capped at $20 million, unlike six years ago, when posting bids were sealed and unlimited, resulting in the Rangers winning the rights to negotiate a contract with Yu Darvish with a $51,703,411 bid.
The AP also reports that only six MLB clubs have the ability under the international bonus pool rules to offer Ohtani a seven-figure bonus during the 2017–18 J2 period that expires next June 15: the Rangers ($3,535,000); Yankees ($3,250,000); Twins ($3,245,000); Pirates ($2,266,750); Marlins ($1,740,000); and Mariners ($1,570,000).
Of course, as has been widely suggested, the relatively modest dollars involved are apparently not going to dictate which team Ohtani signs his non-roster minor league contract with.
Under the current system, once Ohtani is formally posted — which could happen at any time between November 1 and February 1, and now appears imminent (Darvish, incidentally, wasn’t posted by Nippon Ham until December 8 his year) — and the Fighters set the release fee, MLB clubs willing to pay that fee (which will clearly be the maximum $20 million in this case) will have 30 days to negotiate a signing bonus with Ohtani, subject to the bonus caps noted above.
On the other end of the spectrum that Texas, New York (AL), Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Miami, and Seattle head up, the Braves, Cubs, White Sox, Reds, Astros, Royals, Dodgers, A’s, Cardinals, Padres, Giants, Nationals are each limited to offering a $300,000 bonus by virtue of having exceeded their bonus pool under the previous CBA, which was not capped. Six other clubs — the Tigers, Angels, Mets, Blue Jays, Indians, and Rockies — reportedly have even less than that to spend, based on international bonuses they’ve already handed out since July 2.
Ohtani — who is expected to hold his own press conference tomorrow — is one month into a three-month rehab following mid-October ankle surgery, but that will do nothing to dampen the frenzy that Twitter’s going to assault you with over the next month-plus. With the Winter Meetings set for December 10–14, the Ohtani sweepstakes could conclude while the baseball world is convened in Orlando, or shortly thereafter.
Waking this morning to the news out of Japan, it feels like the off-season is now truly revving up.
Oh, and a few hours before the Nippon Ham announcement, Darvish tweeted and Instagrammed this.
Fasten your seat belts.