Baseball / MLB

MLB hopeful of having new posting agreement in place by early December

AP, Kyodo

Major League Baseball hopes to put a new posting system agreement with Japan in place by early December, a deal that would allow star pitcher-designated hitter Shohei Otani to start negotiations with big league teams.

MLB Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem said a new framework has been agreed to with Nippon Professional Baseball and has been given to the Major League Baseball Players Association for its approval.

“I’m hopeful that we can wrap up our discussions with the union soon, maybe within a week,” he said Wednesday at the general managers’ meetings.

After that, MLB owners would hold a conference call for an approval vote.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll have a new system in place in which players can be posted by the NPB in early December,” he said.

Otani, a 23-year-old with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, would be restricted to a minor league contract with a maximum signing bonus of $3,535,000, with each team having different amounts to spend.

Otani announced Saturday he wants to move to the major leagues through the posting system, and would like to continue both hitting and pitching.

Otani helped the Fighters win the Japan Series in 2016 and was voted the Pacific League’s MVP as well as its top pitcher and designated hitter that year.

In his five seasons with the Sapporo-based Fighters, Otani has a 42-15 record on the mound with a 2.52 career ERA. He has struck out 624 batters in his 543 innings and holds the record for the fastest pitch recorded in Japan at 165 kph (102.5 mph).

At the plate, he is a .286 career hitter with 48 home runs, 150 runs scored and 166 RBIs in 1,170 plate appearances, mostly as a designated hitter.

Under the old posting rules, any MLB team interested in a posted Japanese player could offer up to $20 million for the right to negotiate with the player, with only the team that signs the player transferring the fee to the NPB club.

One of the hang-ups to Major League Baseball Players Association approval was Otani not having a union-certified agent, an issue that has since been cleared up. Last week, Otani signed with Creative Artists Agency and will be represented by Nez Balelo.

Because he is under 25 and now treated as an amateur, Otani has to sign a minor-league contract that is subject to signing bonus pools to enter MLB under baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement — agreed to last year with the union. That agreement radically decreases Otani’s earning power should he go to the United States this winter.

Several reports have indicated players association members being unhappy with Nippon Ham receiving $20 million, while Otani receives a tiny bonus and a minor league salary.

“In regards to the posting system, we have been in contact with the players association,” Balelo told Japanese media. “We continue to talk to the players association to get feedback, but we know it’s not buttoned up yet.”