It’s Cyber Monday. You might choose to spend part of it supporting the economy online (example). For 30 shopping-minded baseball franchises, it’s Fighter Monday.
Word broke yesterday that representatives of Nippon Ham righthander Shohei Ohtani prepared a memo, distributed on Friday by the Commissioner’s Office to every Major League club, asking any who might be interested in signing Ohtani to submit presentations addressing seven points that have nothing to do with the financial package they intend to offer:
According to the Associated Press, Ohtani’s camp requested responses — in both English and Japanese — “as soon as possible.” There’s been some speculation that, translated, that means today.
The AP story also suggests the 30 MLB clubs will formally vote this Friday on a new posting system for Nippon Professional Baseball players, and if it’s approved, Nippon Ham could post Ohtani as soon as Friday night, or Saturday at the latest.
Most stories report that the Rangers ($3.535 million) have the most international bonus pool space left to devote to Ohtani, just ahead of the Yankees ($3.5 million), Twins ($3.07 million), and Pirates ($2.26675 million), with the Mariners ($1.5575 million) and Dodgers ($300,000) also seen as legitimate contenders to land the 23-year-old.
Clearly, however, money is not going to be an overriding factor. If it were, Ohtani would presumably wait two years so that he could weigh offers not in the $3 million range, but instead 50 times greater than that. Plus, there’s that whole call for seven-category manifestos.
One interesting feature of the new system — or possibly some sort of agreement that applies to Ohtani alone, I guess — is that, according to some reports, including one from Gerry Fraley (Dallas Morning News), the negotiation period once the Fighters post Ohtani will last just 21 days. I’m pretty sure it had been a 30-day period under the expiring system.
In any event, if Ohtani is posted Friday or Saturday, that means he would sign, with someone, by December 22 or 23.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, for what it’s worth, talks to a talent evaluator who suggests the Rangers “are ahead of the curve on Ohtani,” as “[t]heir work and overall track record in Asia has always been highly regarded.”
Jon Paul Morosi (MLB.com), based on his own interview of Ohtani in February, reports that the Rangers, Dodgers, and Giants showed the most interest five years ago — when Ohtani was 18 — in convincing him to come stateside at that age.
One reported AP note that just can’t be correct is that Ohtani “would not be eligible for a major league contract until he is 25 — after the 2019 season.” I suppose if the intended point was that Ohtani can only agree to a minor league deal today, adjusted to the big league minimum if (when) he makes the Opening Day roster, and would have been able to command a big league contract as a free agent if he’d waited until after 2019, then yes. But the wording is confusing. Ohtani will play under a big league contract four months and a couple days from now. It will just be at the minimum salary.
Texas signed righthander Doug Fister to a one-year deal plus an option yesterday, reducing by one the number of rotation candidates the club needs to bring aboard this winter. That doesn’t lessen the interest in Ohtani at all, of course, and if anything the Fister addition probably makes Texas an even stronger candidate for a free agent pitcher like Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn (each of whom Morosi reports remains a Rangers target) or even Jake Arrieta (whom Nick Cafardo [Boston Globe] reports Texas interest in) since Fister comes in at such a low price point.
The same will be said for Ohtani, which is a reason all 30 teams probably spent the weekend working up their own PowerPoint pitch. The $20 million payable to Nippon Ham and the fraction of that which Ohtani can be signed for in three and a half weeks is negligible on the scale of what pitchers at his age and of his ability would command on a truly open market, and that’s to say nothing of his potential to impact the game with his bat as well.
Whether Fister’s arrival means the Rangers may be preparing to non-tender an arbitration-eligible like Nick Martinez or A.J. Griffin, each of whom could be in line for $2–3 million through the process, is unknown, but only until Friday (7 p.m. Central), when all arb-eligibles and pre-arbitration players must be tendered or set free.
Friday is also the day that the Fighters are waiting for, and that Ohtani’s camp has calendared as well. He’s going to be made available to Major League Baseball, officially, that night or the next morning, and between now and then the righthander and his agents will have a whole bunch of reading to do.