One thing that no one can ever say about me is that I don’t listen when other people talk to me so when Robert Casey of Bleeding Yankee Blue talks to me I always let it soak in. One thing that Mr. Casey taught me was to always be different, to be myself and to always look for the little “nugget” of information that gets passed over or otherwise overlooked by the rest of the Yankees blogosphere. That’s what I did this morning when I read this article from the Bleacher Report regarding Japan’s ace Shohei Otani and his intentions of coming to the United States after the 2017 season.
Shohei Otani, or more commonly known as “Japan’s Babe Ruth”, discussed this week in an interview his intentions of coming to the United States after the 2017 season and there was a little nugget of information in there that screams to me “I want to get paid.” Here is the exact quote from Otani and let’s see if you can pick out which line I’m talking about. I’ll even make it easy for you and bold it.
"Personally, the new CBA rules do not mean much to me, and it is not going to stop me from going over to the States," Ohtani said. "The only thing that worries me is the other young players that might try to go overseas after me. I don't want to set the bar too low for them and have to get underpaid because of my decision."
Now one must remember that the Japanese people, by culture, are a very respectful and prideful group of people so I genuinely believe Otani when he says that he will consider not only himself, his friends and his family in his decision next season but that he will also hold the Japanese-born players behind him that follow him to the States in his heart when he makes this decision.
How did this come up? Well the Major League Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement states that a player under the age of 25 or with less than six professional seasons under their belt is considered to be an International Free Agent. This would make Otani subject to the IFA spending cap rules which could cost him millions of dollars since it severely limits the pool of teams that could be interested. If Otani were to wait until after the 2019 season he would be a true free agent and could sign with any team for basically any amount of money but Otani seems inclined to forego the wait and sign with a big league club before the 2018 season, just in time for a few key Yankees pitchers to hit free agency and just in time for a literal boatload of money to come off the books.
According to the new CBA if Otani decides to jump ship from Japan to the United States he can only sign for $5 million. This would widen his pool of teams to choose from to whatever number it is now that you want to speculate, mine would be no more than six-or-seven teams given the presumed price tag, to all 30 MLB teams. In this day and age $5 million is almost literally nothing, for a hitter or for a pitcher and Otani can do both exceptionally well.
So Otani has a big decision ahead of him. Does he leave Japan after the 2017 season and possibly leave millions on the table to pursue his ultimate dream or does he wait out two more seasons and go for broke? That only he can answer but I have a feeling that all 30 MLB teams are hoping it’s the former and not the latter. I leave you with this, his 2016 stats from Japan, and a dream of Otani wearing your favorite team’s jersey in 2018. I mean it will just be a dream since he will be wearing Yankees pinstripes but still, everyone needs a dream. Have a great day everyone.
As a pitcher: 10-4, 1.86 ERA, 140 innings, 11.2 SO/9
As a hitter: .322/.416/.588, 22 HR, 67 RBI