Young Japanese star Shohei Otani has hired Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to represent him in his planned move to the majors, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter). Nez Balelo will be the lead agent, per the report, who’ll help steward Otani through what promises to be a fascinating process.
While news of an agency choice is rarely outwardly exciting, it’s particularly notable in this case. Otani is severely limited in what he can earn, but will be looking for a team that suits his other preferences — the precise nature of which remain unknown, but which reportedly include a preference to see time as a hitter as well as a pitcher. His representation will also be advising him about marketing and other earning opportunities as well as the possibility of ultimately securing a long-term contract of the type he cannot now obtain due to the international signing restrictions.
CAA, one of the larger agencies in the sport, evidently beat out several other major competitors to land Otani as a client. Some of the outfit’s notable clients include Japanese players Nori Aoki and Junichi Tazawa. CAA has negotiated quite a few significant extensions, including big contracts for Ryan Braun, Matt Cain, Adam Jones, Buster Posey, and Ryan Zimmerman along with more recent deals for Stephen Piscotty and Jean Segura. The agency also worked on contracts for Robinson Cano, Yoenis Cespedes, and Rusney Castillo in the course of its former partnership with Roc Nation Sports.
The most recent reports on Otani’s potential posting suggest all the more reason to take note of this decision. A negotiation impasse threatens to scuttle his move altogether, with the reporting indicating that Otani (through his agent) will likely need to play a role in resolving things. (You’ll want to read the full report from Joel Sherman of the New York Post to understand the situation in full, but in essence, the problem is tied to the confluence of international bonus limitations and the proposed modification to the posting system whereby Japanese clubs would receive a percentage of any bonus.)
While Otani’s reps work to sort out the transfer situation, teams will no doubt be interested in beginning to learn just what Otani will base his decision on if and when he’s formally made available by his current team, the Nippon Ham Fighters. Many have speculated on the points of a decision — the availability of a DH slot, geography, a history of successful Japanese players, willingness to do a significant early extension, etc. — but as of yet nobody really knows how the two-way talent will make up his mind.
As always, you can find the most up-to-date MLB agency information in MLBTR’s Agency Database.