2:23pm: There’s a “tentative understanding” in place simply to extend the prior posting regime for another year, Sherman reports. The MLBPA has yet to weigh in on the subject, though, and there’s still not a final deal in place.
1:31pm: In the wake of Shohei Otani’s decision to hire a MLBPA-certified player representative, it seems that there’ll be a renewed push to figure out a way to resolve the impasse that has threatened to derail his planned move to the majors. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that there’s a sense that the move will help facilitate an agreement that all involved will approve.
Indeed, Otani’s reps at CAA are scheduled to “meet soon” with the player’s association to attempt to get on the same page in an effort to sort things out, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets. That’s just the first step here, of course, as Otani and the MLBPA will still need to engage with Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball — the two entities that are primarily negotiating a new system governing inter-league player transfers.
The difficulties here are tied to two factors: first, MLB’s rules capping international bonuses on certain younger international free agents; and second, the expiration of the prior posting system. There was a time when Otani’s current team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, might have auctioned Otani’s negotiating rights for something approaching or even exceeding nine figures while Otani might have commanded a guarantee of as much or more. Under the just-expired transfer system, the Fighters would at least have stood to receive the maximum allowable $20MM fee. But that’s no longer how things work.
The transfer rules currently under contemplation would do away with the (up-to) $20MM flat-fee approach in favor of one that would allow the NPB team to earn a percentage of the bonus the posted player negotiates. If Otani was free to seek his market value, that wouldn’t likely pose a problem. But his earnings are now severely limited; while he is evidently at peace with that, his would-be former team is obviously not enamored of the possibility of losing its best player for what would be relative peanuts.
Under MLB’s current international rules, MLB clubs can’t go past their international spending pools (as supplemented via trade) to sign Otani. Those are even more limited than might be realized, though, due to teams’ preexisting commitments with young international players. (This was already known, of course, though the details remained fuzzy.)
According to a report from the Associated Press, only six teams even have enough uncommitted pool space to offer Otani seven figures. The Rangers ($3.535MM), Yankees ($3.25MM), and Twins ($3.245MM) easily lead the way, with the Pirates ($2.2MM+), Marlins ($1.74MM), and Mariners ($1.57MM+) also have some money to spend — or, perhaps, to trade to a would-be Otani suitor. For someone who is expected to be an immediate and significant contributor at the major-league level, that’s a pittance no matter the precise amount. Of course, he’ll also have a chance to make significant income off the field and through a future extension or trip through arbitration.