The fate of Shohei Ohtani’s immediate future rested two weeks ago in the hands of the MLB Players Association, which balked when the commissioner’s office and Nippon Professional Baseball presented a new posting system.
The MLBPA set a deadline, then had to extend it by 24 hours, before finding middle ground and opening the door for Ohtani to be posted by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
All that’s needed now is a vote of the 30 MLB team owners, which should happen no later than Friday.
On Wednesday, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, in town for annual MLBPA board meeting and a Players Trust outreach program with the Dallas Habitat for Humanity, said that the reason for the MLBPA’s initial hesitancy was to ensure that the posting system covered all potential foreign players headed to MLB and not just Ohtani.
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And Clark, like any baseball fan, is curious to see what the Babe Ruth of Japan can do in the major leagues.
“It wasn’t just a negotiation regarding a particular player,” Clark said. “It was a negotiation over a system — a posting system, a transfer system — a system that is likely going to affect not just Japanese players but other players that come from other leagues.
“It’s always a blessing to have the best players in the world playing together. It’s always interesting to see, regardless of where you come from or how long you’ve been playing, the adjustments you have to make to be successful at the highest level of our game. To the extent that he signs, to the extent that he has a team and when he has a big-league uniform, I’m sure a number of folks would be interested to see how he does, and I hope he does well.”
The Texas Rangers are considered one of the front-runners to land Ohtani, along with the Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. To do so, the Rangers must agree that they will pay the Fighters a $20 million posting fee if Ohtani chooses them.
Now that the ball is rolling on Ohtani, the turtle-paced free-agent market could start to gain momentum. But also holding up things is the Giancarlo Stanton trade sweepstakes, something that has been cited by a few free agents. Only a few players, including new Rangers right-hander Doug Fister, have signed.
Clark said that the MLBPA is monitoring the market and is curious to see how things play out the next two weeks before the baseball convenes on Orlando, Fla., for the annual winter meetings.
“You know what the free-agent market looks like, and you can appreciate all the rumors that are out there about players who are on current rosters and may or may not be available,” Clark said.
“Against the backdrop of when and if those players move, it is understandable that there may be some slowing down in the market. I think that’s what we are seeing and I think that’s what have seen the last couple years.
“It’s something that we always pay attention to. At this point and time in the off-season with the many moving pieces that are still out there, we are very interested in how the next few weeks play out leading up to the winter meetings and coming out the other side of the winter meetings.”