Shohei Otani plans to play in MLB in 2018



Wednesday’s Say Hey, Baseball looks at Shohei Otani leaving Japan for MLB, the Indians’ win streak, and the Dodgers finally winning a game.

Yes, yes, the Dodgers snapped their losing streak and the Indians increased their winning streak and other important late-season things happened in MLB on Tuesday. We’ll get to that. The huge news in the baseball world this morning isn’t about a game that was played: it’s about games that will be played in 2018 in MLB. Games that will feature Japanese superstar Shohei Otani, as his intentions to come to MLB for next season are now public.

There was the possibility that the 23-year-old Otani would wait until he was a free agent two years from now to come to MLB, as it would help him avoid the posting system and the puny contract offers that the new collective bargaining agreement will limit him to. As Jeff Passan notes in the linked story above, Otani is leaving millions and millions on the table here:

Instead, MLB’s new collective-bargaining agreement limits the teams to hard-capped bonus pools between $4.75 million and $5.75 million to spend from July 2 until June of next year. A team can trade for up to 75 percent of its bonus-pool value, meaning the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, both of whom have acquired international bonus money, can have a maximum of $8.3 million. The eight teams with $5.75 million to spend can deal for up to $10.1 million total, though three of them are restricted from signing any player for over $300,000 because of penalties from exceeding past pools.

The Dodgers, Cubs, Padres, and Astros are among the 11 teams that cannot exceed that $300,000 threshold for a signing bonus. The Red Sox and Yankees are not two of them, and while they can’t offer the largest contracts, they’re also the Red Sox and Yankees, which might end up mattering in a market where other historic (and currently successful) clubs like the Cubs and Dodgers are potentially out of the bidding.

You might be wondering if a team could secretly agree with Otania that, once his minor-league contract is purchased (because that’s what he would be signed to under this system) by the big-league club, he could then negotiation an extension that would allow both sides to to essentially bypass the international free agent limitations. The answer would be no, as MLB has made it clear they’re on the lookout for violations of the spirit of the rule, and, as Passan says, they expect the threat of punishment for violations to keep everyone on the up and up here.

It’s a shame, too, because Otani seems like he’s going to be worth a whole lot more than he’ll be paid, whether he pitches or plays the field or does both. He hasn’t been on the mound much in 2017 due to injury, but he posted a 2.16 ERA with over 11 strikeouts per nine a year ago, and has slugged over .500 every season since he was 19, so don’t discount the possibility of “both.”

  • Jose Ramirez is having a breakout season, and it’s helped lead the Indians to 20 wins in a row. His story is the Indians’ story, and that’s good news for both.
  • It was not a great night for Padres’ pitching, as they let something that has never happened before happen: the Twins became the first team to ever hit seven homers in seven innings, one per inning, en route to a 16-0 victory.
  • The Indians won their 20th in a row, tying the American League recordset by the 2002 A’s. If Cleveland wins on Wednesday against Detroit, they will have tied the all-time record, held by the 1880 Chicago White Stockings and 1935 Cubs.
  • The Dodgers ended their 11-game losing streak by defeating the Giants 5-3. Now they’ve only lost 16 of their last 18 games, but hey, at least now they know they’re still allowed to win at all.
  • MLB released their 2018 schedule, and good news, everyone: there is now only one Opening Day!
  • Carlos Gonzalez has had a rough 2017, but he hit two homers on Tuesday, including a monster 478-foot shot.
  • Mookie Betts’ bat also came alive again, with a pair of homers and a triple against the A’s.
  • Terry Francona shared an embarrassing story about his scooter and Tyronn Lue.
  • A 2018 A’s game will be free for all fans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Oakland first playing in the Coliseum.
  • The A’s, by the way, might actually be good at defense now. That’s a real surprise if you remember who is on that roster.
  • The Phillies are playing the kids, so the future is officially now in Philadelphia.
  • Viva El Birdos made the case for a Tommy Pham extension.
  • The Hardball Times is recounting the final month of the 1967 season, and part two is up.
  • Ben Carsley wrote about the last night of the Tigers’ dynasty that wasn’t for Baseball Prospectus.