Reports from Japan early Friday morning say that Shohei Ohtani, the Babe Ruth of Japan and the player at the top of the Texas Rangers’ off-season wish list, will be posted by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
It would have been far more newsier had the Fighters decided not to post the 23-year-old hard-throwing right-hander, who just happens to hit for power on days he’s not pitching.
Word that he will be posted, though, is news. But what now?
Major League Baseball teams can’t yet start the wooing process because the posting agreement between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball has expired. There is not system in place to compensate the Japanese team for surrendering its star player.
Work on that apparently is on-going, and it could be finalized within a few weeks. Ohtani’s U.S.-based agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, reportedly will meet next week with the MLB Players Association, and that could be the final push for MLB and NPB to get across the finish line.
The system that expired Oct. 31 called for interested MLB teams to post $20 million if interested in a player, and the player would choose the team he wanted to negotiate with. That system wasn’t in place in 2011, when the Rangers landed the exclusive negotiating rights with Yu Darvish.
Under that system, the player’s team in Japan selected who would win the rights based on the size of the posting bid. The Rangers blew out the competition with a bid of $51.7 million and had 30 days to work a deal with Darvish.
So, MLB teams are still in a holding pattern when it comes to signing Ohtani. But it’s official that he will be posted, and that could get the ball rolling.