Yankees Rumors: Shohei Otani to Be Posted Next Offseason?

Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports /

All signs point to Japanese superstar Shohei Otani making the jump to the major leagues next offseason, and the New York Yankees are expected to be one of his primary suitors when he does.

Speculation has been rampant the last few months about if and when Shohei Otani, known as the Japanese Babe Ruth because of his prodigious talent both on the mound and in the batter’s box, would decide to make the transition to MLB.

Amazingly, Otani was arguably both the best pitcher and best hitter in the NPB last year despite being just 21 years old, putting up a 1.82 ERA in 140 IP while also batting .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs in 382 plate appearances.

Nothing is official yet, but the Japan Times reported Monday that Otani will ask his club the Nippon Ham Fighters to post him after next season, telling the media:

"I know that the club will respect my will whenever I decide I want to go (to the majors). It is pleasing to get that support and I’m thankful for it."

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One major obstacle to that seems to be the new collective bargaining agreement, which puts a hard cap on international spending of $4.75 million for each club per year. That means Otani won’t be able land the monster $200-plus million contract many were anticipating if he had come over prior to this new labor deal.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports recently confirmed that the league had no plans to make an exception for Otani in the event he comes over. After signing that $4.75 million bonus, he will be treated like any other rookie, making the league minimum for three years before hitting arbitration.

These financial constraints are in place for any international player under the age of 25, which caused many fans to give up hope of seeing Otani come to the U.S. before the 2020 season.

There was a ray of hope Thursday, as Otani’s manager with the Fighters, Hideki Kuriyama, told Jim Allen of the Kyodo News that he doesn’t expect the changes to the international spending system to deter the young star because he wants to compete against the most talented players in the world on the biggest stage. The truth is, he’s already rich, and still has the opportunity to make a ton more money if he’s successful in MLB.

The stars seem to all be aligned for the Yankees to make a serious run at Otani next offseason. They will no longer be subject to the international spending penalties they triggered with their 2014-2015 IFA spending spree, so they will be able to offer him the maximum bonus, with the added incentive of joining the most famous and popular franchise in baseball history, which has employed many legendary Japanese stars in recent years, including Masahiro Tanaka, Hideki Matsui, and Ichiro Suzuki.

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Eleven teams will already be eliminated from the race for Otani next winter because they exceeded the international spending limit in the last two years, and at least a few more won’t want to pony up the $20 million posting fee. If the Yankees do decide to go hard after Otani, they are very well positioned to do so.