It isn’t about the money. Athletes reflexively say this, and sports fans roll their eyes, because of course it’s about the money. It’s always about the money. Then along comes Shohei Otani, 23 years old, the finest baseball player Japan has produced in years, maybe decades, a once-in-a-generation sort who can throw 102 mph and hit tape-measure home runs, a player whose free-market value would start at $200 million if Major League Baseball didn’t restrict the signings of international players under 25 to barely $10 million.
Only Otani, it seems, does not mind the prospect of giving up literally hundreds of millions of dollars to play in the greatest league in the world. Multiple reports out of Japan on Wednesday morning there said the same thing: Otani, who has been called the Japanese Babe Ruth, will enter the posting system this winter and play for a major league team in 2018. This came as no surprise to the general managers and scouts who have flocked in recent weeks to watch him pitch for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. It also didn’t lessen their excitement any.
If it were, Otani would wait two years, bide his time with the Fighters and arrive in the major leagues a true free agent, able to sign with whomever he wants for however much he desires. 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.
Eleven teams in all, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Houston Astros, face the $300,000 ceiling, complicating his decision even more. – H/T Yahoo Sports
Ba Ba Da Da Da, Ba Ba Da Da Da, It’s up to you New York, Neeeeew Yoooooork! This is just like a foregone conclusion right? I mean how much better of a situation could you have laid out for this guy to be in Pinstripes next year. It’s like Major league Baseball is just handing him to the Yankees. If you haven’t heard about this guy yet, well, he’s a MONSTER. His nickname the “Japanese Babe Ruth” is a very literal name. There isn’t a thing on the baseball field this guy doesn’t do well. He’s like a 12-tool player. He’s probably a great locker room guy too. Just cause why not?
Throwing 102 and hitting BOMBS on the reg…in the same games?! Fuck outta here with that. That’s not only unheard of, it’s almost unbelievable. Actually, not almost, I literally won’t believe it’s true until he’s knocking dingers over the WB Mason sign in Yankee Stadium (Or the Green Monster).
Now I get some of you are probably already saying how uncreative or a homer of a pick this is for him to end up in Pinstripes, but honestly look at the facts. The very rules they put in place to prevent big market teams from always winning the bidding wars on international players, might, in fact, be the same set of rules that guarantees Otani ends up in the Bronx. Oh, the sweet irony. Money alone, it’s the classic rivalry again between the Yanks and Sox. From Matsui to Dice-K to Tanaka, they’ve always traded blows in the international market. I see him ending up in one of those two places.
First, because the simple facts are that it’s rare for an international prospect to come over to the majors with his choice of team and not choose a big market team. As you can see the Dodgers, Astros, Cubs, and Padres are all out. $300k ain’t $8M. The Marlins, Whitesox, Phillies, Giants, Braves, Mets and Rangers (other major cities) all suck. The rest of the teams are not in major cities and do not consider them even as possibilities. The guy is leaving $200M in potential earnings on the table. I think he’s gonna be looking to make some off the field money and sorry, but that shit ain’t happening in Cleveland or Milwaukee. No matter how many games in a row they win.
That leaves us again with the Red Sox and Yankees. Both with the talent, the money, the location, the infrastructure to handle Japanese players, but most of all, the history. Going toe to toe. Two franchises who were once connected by a single man and over the next 100 or so years, had very different lives. Now we’re back to square one. Coming full circle. Here we are, over a century later, about to watch the Yankees and Red Sox bid for the Japanese Babe Ruth. The sports world is truly a remarkable place.