By Christmas, we should know for which MLB team Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani will play. His recruitment began on Friday with a memo sent to MLB teams from his agency.
Nez Balelo of CAA Sports is representing Ohtani, arguably the best pitcher and hitter in Japan. A posting agreement between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball is expected to be ratified by Dec. 1 or 2, after which teams would have 21 days to sign Ohtani.
Details of the memo were revealed by the Associated Press:
Balelo’s memo asks for a team to evaluate Ohtani’s talent as a pitcher and as a hitter; to explain its player development, medical training and player performance philosophies and facilities; to describe its minor league and spring training facilities; to detail resources for Ohtani’s cultural assimilation into the team’s city; to demonstrate a vision for how Ohtani could integrate into the team’s organization; and to tell Ohtani why the team is a desirable place to play.
Each team was asked to provide its answers in both languages as soon as possible. Clubs were told not to include any financial terms of a possible contract.
Ohtani will be the most sought-after free agent in baseball this winter, but he will not receive the largest contract. Not by a long shot.
Because Ohtani is just 23 years old, he is subject to the limitations of the international signing bonus pool. Under the collective bargaining agreement signed last offseason, only players 25 or older and with six years of experience are considered foreign professionals exempt from bonus pool restrictions.
So instead of a nine-figure contract that Ohtani would surely receive on a true open market, he won’t even sign a major league deal in December. Ohtani will get a signing bonus, with teams having anywhere from $10,000 to just over $3.5 million to spend on a single player.
On a grand scale, the difference between both ends of the bonus spectrum is relatively negligible. In the long term, Ohtani will get paid, eventually. His initial bonus will likely be the least important determinant of where Ohtani will sign.
His desire to play in Major League Baseball is clear, and getting the chance to both pitch and hit — something truly rare in MLB — plus the ability to play where he is most comfortable will be the selling points for teams when negotiating with Ohtani.
That makes this almost like a college recruitment and makes Ohtani one of the most unique free agents in baseball history.