The Dodgers are in a good position this offseason, not needing to make any huge acquisitions over the winter months. They had the best record in baseball last season, and most every player will be back, with a few exceptions here and there.
There is, however, one intriguing player that could be available soon, that we briefly touched on in Friday’s article, and that is Japanese phenom Shohei Otani. The dual position player pitches and plays outfield, and loves to hit. He has stated that he would like to be able to do both with whatever team may sign him in the majors.
Being a player from Japan that has been playing with Nippon Professional Baseball, there are some rules to Ohtani being posted for major league teams to be able to pursue signing him. The MLBPA has some issues currently with this system, and has imposed a deadline of 8:00 pm EST Monday for these issues to be resolved.
First, the MLBPA believes that the posting period from the Japanese clubs is way too long. It is currently from November 1st to February 1st. MLBPA thinks that this can interfere with free agency, and would like to see it shorted from November 1st to November 15th. Secondly, if a Japanese player is over the age of 25, the club that he currently plays for can decide that if the offer from a major league team is not good enough, they can withdraw the post. The Japanese club currently gets 20% of the what the player heading to the US signs for. Thirdly, if the player is under 25 years old, the Japanese club gets extra money if the player reaches the major leagues within two years of his posting. The MLBPA is concerned that this will lead to a manipulation of service time.
This was all in the past posting system agreement, and that contract expired November 1st. As of early Monday morning, no progress had been made on the changes to the system.
Ohtani is only 23 years old, and could wait two more years to make the jump to the major leagues. Some have speculated that by trying to make the move now, he is missing out on a $200 million-plus contract that could await him after he has turned 25. Because he is under that age, he is below the designation as an international amateur player, and that limits the amount of money that clubs can offer him.
Perhaps Ohtani is worried about injuries that could happen in the next two years—perhaps hampering his standing with MLB teams. He did deal with some quad and ankle issues over the course of the 2017 season, limiting his playing time. In that shortened season, his slash line was .322/.403/.540 over 231 plate appearances, while he pitched only 25-1/3 innings with a 3.20 ERA. In 2016, he was the Pacific League MVP, pitching 140 innings with a 1.86 ERA and 174 strikeouts. At the plate he hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs.
Over the summer, the Dodgers sent a scout team, including Orel Hershiser, to Japan to watch the Japanese star. If and when Ohtani finally gets posted, teams will be clamoring for a chance to have him on their team. Moving to the US to play from Japan does take some adjustment, as Japanese pitchers only pitch once a week. Ohtani could learn from current Dodger pitcher Kenta Maeda on how best to make that adjustment. At the moment, though, it doesn’t look like the posting agreements will get hammered out, so we all might have to wait two years to see this duel threat for ourselves.
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