Despite a variety of roadblocks, it has become widely assumed that Japanese star Shohei Otani would transition to the majors over the coming offseason. That possibility could now be in jeopardy, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports, owing to a dispute regarding the nature of the transfer rules that would govern the transaction.
Under the preexisting rules regime, Otani would have been made available to any Major League Baseball team willing to pay the maximum $20MM transfer fee. While MLB’s restrictive new international spending rules severely limited his potential earning capacity, he appears to be at peace with taking less now rather than waiting until he is old enough not to have his bonus capped.
Trouble is, the posting deal between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball just expired, leading to negotiations on a new agreement. Per Sherman, the approach contemplated was to allow the NPB team to receive a payout tied to the value of the contract(something in the realm of 15 to 20 percent of the total guarantee).
In the case of Otani, of course, that would have meant a drastic reduction of the money flowing to his current club, the Nippon Ham Fighters. While MLB would be willing to allow Otani to sign under the preexisting rules, per Sherman, that attempt at a compromise has run afoul of the MLB player’s union.
While the MLBPA does not count Otani as a member, and wouldn’t even do so upon his signing (since it’ll be a minor-league deal), it does have a stake here since the issue is subject to collective bargaining. According to Sherman, the union is concerned with the possibility that Otani will end up taking home a bonus significantly less than the value paid to the Fighters.
Ultimately, it seems that there’s still room for talks to sort things out. Sherman does not suggest that the union is interested in spoiling the transfer, for example; to the contrary, he says it is attempting to work with Otani. (That effort, he notes, has been complicated by the fact that Otani is still utilizing a Japanese lawyer and has yet to choose a MLBPA-certified agent.)
Even if things eventually get sorted, the news is quite notable. With the World Series wrapping up tonight, the open market will be fired up tomorrow. Teams shopping for starting pitching will begin negotiating in earnest, unsure of whether Otani will actually come — and, if so, exactly what he’s looking for in choosing a team. All things considered, the Otani situation is about as big a wild card on the market as could be imagined.