Baseball / MLB

Shohei Otani expected to sign with MLB team before end of year

Kyodo, AP

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters two-way talent Shohei Otani will sign his first contract with a major league club by the end of the year, a source familiar with the matter told Kyodo News Wednesday.

According to the source, the new posting system will take effect upon ratification at the Dec. 1 MLB owners meeting, after which Nippon Ham will file paperwork that will allow Otani to immediately start negotiating with any MLB team until Dec. 22.

Earlier in the day, multiple U.S. media reported Major League Baseball and its players union agreed to a new posting system, an auction-style player transfer system between NPB and MLB.

ESPN, the New York Post, Associated Press and other news outlets said Otani will be put up for bid as soon as all 30 MLB owners ratify the agreement. The deal needs to be cleared by NPB, MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association before it is made official.

NPB and MLB had already agreed on a basic framework for a new deal after the previous posting agreement expired on Nov. 1, and MLB had been awaiting approval from its Players Association.

“Shohei Otani is going to be quite a Christmas gift for some team,” the New York Post said.

Under a shortened timetable this offseason big league teams willing to pay the posting fee, expected to be the maximum $20 million, have 21 days to negotiate a major league contract.

Seibu Lions pitcher Kazuhisa Makita, who received the nod from his team to use the posting system earlier this month when discussions for a revision to the old system were ongoing, will have 30 days to negotiate.

As part of the deal, a tiered system for posting fees will start next November 1. The fee will be 20 percent of the first $25 million of a contract, including earned bonuses and options; 17. 5 percent of the next $25 million and 15 percent of any amount over $50 million.

For minor league contracts, the fee will be 25 percent of the signing bonus.

Starting next offseason the posting period will be shortened, starting on Dec. 5.

The commissioner’s office and the union had pushed back the deadline for agreement on a new posting system between MLB and NPB by 24 hours after failing to find middle ground.

In their bid to pursue Otani , the New York Yankees raised their available signing bonus for the star pitcher-outfielder from $3.25 million to $3.5 million, acquiring $250,000 in pool money in a trade with the Miami Marlins on Monday.

The 23-year-old Otani, who underwent surgery on his right ankle last month, is 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA in five seasons with the Sapporo-based Fighters in the Pacific League.

At the plate, he hit .286 with 296 hits, including 48 home runs, and 166 RBIs in 1,170 plate appearances, mostly as a designated hitter.

Because he is under 25 and defined as an international 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.