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Orioles Interested In Japanese Phenom Shohei Otani, But So Is Every MLB Team

November 17, 2017
Do you think the Orioles would be interested in a 23-year-old player who can immediately step into their starting rotation and also be available to play the outfield or be the designated hitter a few days a week?
 
The Orioles and every other club in Major League Baseball are interested in Japanese phenom Shohei Otani.
 
Otani, who throws right-handed and hits left-handed, was 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA during the past five seasons for the Nippon Ham Fighters.
 
In 2016 and 2017, he batted .326 with 30 home runs and 98 RBIs in 169 games. Otani is a selective hitter, too. His on-base percentages throughout the past two seasons were above .400 and his OPS was 1.004 and .942.
 
Otani is so eager to play in the majors that he's willing to accept much less money than he'd get if he waited two years, when he's 25 and could be an unrestricted foreign free agent.
 
Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association are haggling over the posting system for players from Japan. Under the old system, the Ham Fighters would receive $20 million from the team that signed Otani. Each interested team pledges $20 million, and only the team that signs Otani pays the money.
 
Each team can spend what it has left in the International Signing Bonus pool to sign Otani. According to figures compiled by Major League Baseball and obtained by the Associated Press, the Texas Rangers can offer Otani the largest signing bonus, $3.535 million.
 
The Orioles, who have traded away $4.75 million of their $5.75 million allotment, have signed four international free agents for $340,000 since July 2 and have $660,000 remaining to offer Otani.
 
While the Orioles have freely traded away some of their slot money, they can actually offer Otani the 10th-highest bonus among major league teams. The New York Yankees ($3.5 million) and Minnesota Twins ($3.245 million) can offer the second- and third-highest bonuses.
 
Other teams that have been linked with Otani are the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.
 
The Mariners can offer Otani $1,570,500, the Red Sox $462,000, while the Dodgers are limited to $300,000. Los Angeles is one of 12 teams penalized for exceeding their signing bonus pool under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement.
 
Six teams have less than $300,000 to spend on Otani, including the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies, who have just $10,000.
 
Otani, who would make far more money in Japan during the next two seasons, would sign a minor league contract and would make the major league minimum salary of $545,000 in 2018.
 
Should Otani be as a fearsome a player as many expect him to be, he could cash in as an unrestricted free agent two years from now.
 
The Orioles are just one of 30 interested teams, and since Otani is already forfeiting millions over the next two seasons by leaving Japan, he will probably choose a team based on location, competitiveness and comfort rather than a signing bonus.
 
Unlike the Rangers, Yankees, Mariners and Dodgers, the Orioles have never had a top-shelf Japanese player. Right-handed pitcher Koji Uehara (2009-2011) is the only player from Japan to play for the Orioles.
 
Otani has never started more than 24 games in a season, and since he's insistent on being a two-way player, might be more comfortable with an American League team since he could presumably DH on some days he's not pitching.
 
There's been some speculation among club officials that a team signing Otani would have to commit to a six-man rotation because of his unusual schedule. It's believed he shouldn't play on the day before or the day after he pitches, but since this has never been done before, it'll be uncharted territory for the team that signs him.

No one can bid on Otani until MLB and the players association agree on a new posting system.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox