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Shohei Otani might come to MLB as early as 2018

The Japanese superstar will play one more year for Nippon in the Pacific League.

Japanese sensation Shohei Otani is one of the best players in the world, and he could potentially be coming to America to test his wares in Major League Baseball as soon as 2018. The Nippon Ham Fighters plan to post Otani to MLB after the 2017 season, per a report from Sponichi in Japan.

What makes Otani unique is that he is not only one of the best pitchers in Japan, but also one of its best hitters, playing the outfield or designated hitter on days he didn’t pitch.

Otani was 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA in 2016, with 174 strikeouts and 45 walks in 140 innings, and he hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs and 18 doubles in 382 plate appearances. He was named MVP of the Pacific League in 2016, and was the first player to be named on the all-league team at both pitcher and designated hitter.

His pitches have been clocked over 100 mph, and his hits are the stuff of legend.

Otani is just 22 now, and will be 23 when Nippon posts him to MLB next year, which will make him one of the most coveted free agents in major league history.

The only question is just how much Otani can earn under baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement. Under terms of the new agreement, there is an annual cap on spending on international amateurs, of no more than $5.75 million per team in total. To be exempt from amateur status under the new CBA, players must be at least 25 with six years of professional experience, up from 23 years old and five years in the old system.

After 2017, Otani will have five years of pro experience but will be just 23. Still, there might be a loophole.

If Otani is not subject to international amateur bonus limits, and is posted through the working agreement MLB has with NPB in Japan, Otani would have 30 days to negotiate with any team as a major league free agent, and if he reached an agreement, that team would be required to pay a posting fee to the Nippon Ham Fighters, most likely at the maximum $20 million allowed.

“I actually think the guy might get a $300 million deal,” a scout said of Otani to Joel Sherman of the New York Post in November.

Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see if Otani is indeed posted, and if MLB teams are allowed to bid freely on him.