Japanese Star’s Desire to Play in MLB Expected to Lead to Bidding War

by Clayton Richer | Posted on Thursday, September 14th, 2017
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Japan’s baseball league is responsible for bringing players like Ichiro Suzuki, Masahiro Tanaka, Hideki Matsui, and other great players to Major League Baseball. Next season, MLB fans will likely get their chance to see Shohei Otani play up close and personal after he signs with an MLB team.

Otani’s signing will likely affect a team’s MLB odds for the season, but we won’t know until he signs a contract with an MLB team.

According to reports, Otani is expected to be the biggest Japanese star to play in the United States, which is saying a lot considering the talented players that have come from Japan, including Ichiro, who is considered by some to be the greatest hitter in MLB history.

Otani currently plays for the Nippon Ham Fighters and is considered a great two-way player. In his five seasons as a pro, Otani has a slash line of .286/.359/.505.

Otani also does a little pitching and has a 2.77 ERA in a little under 500 innings. He has made three All-Star appearances in the Japanese league and was the 2016 Pacific League MVP.

According to source s, Otani has indicated that he will like to play in the MLB in 2018. If he goes through with his plan, he will likely be the most sought after free agent in baseball.

If Otani does decide to come to the United States, expect to see a bidding war for his services, with clubs like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, who have signed Japanese players in the past, being the front runners to sign him.

Unlike other Japanese players that come to the U.S. later in their careers, Otani’s age makes him more appealing because he is only 23-years-old.

In the past, Otani wouldn’t have had any problems signing with an MLB team, but the new collective bargaining agreement requires international players to be at least 25-years-old to avoid the restrictive rules for international signings.

Otani will still be able to sign a long-term extension once he reaches the majors, but MLB is cracking down on handshake deals that promise a lucrative future deal. Right now, Otani will be able to receive a signing bonus ranging from $300,000 to $10 million, which is a significant drop off from the $300 million he would have been able to receive under the old rules.

Otani currently has two options, he can stay in Japan until he is 25, then cash in on a big contract, or he could sign with an MLB team next season for much less.

According to people close to him, Otani doesn’t care about the money, which means he is likely going to try to play in the MLB next season.

While there have been other two-way players in the past, like Babe Ruth, who pitched and batted with the Red Sox, but none has been as unique as Otani, whose fastball reaches 100 miles per hour.

With Otani being such a rare talent, MLB teams will try their best to land him so expect an intense bidding war. Since Otani wants to pitch and hit, the team that signs him will have to figure out a way to have him in their pitching rotation as well as their batting rotation even when he isn’t pitching.

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Clayton Richer
About the Author

Clayton Richer is an MLB scribe from north of the border with a slight bias for the Toronto Blue Jays. Clayton has also been the shop-keeper at Baseball Hot Corner since the sites inception in 2012. Follow and interact with Clayton on Twitter @MLBHotCorner or @ClaytonRicher

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