After a period of uncertainty surrounding the ongoing ability of Japanese players to sign with major-league teams, MLB has reached a tentative agreement with the MLBPA and Japan’s top baseball league, Nippon Professional Baseball, on a posting system for this offseason as well as a three-year deal that will last through October 31, 2021. Joel Sherman of the New York Post first reported the news on Tuesday evening, and Jon Morosi of MLB.com also provided key details.
Under the new agreement, NPB teams will no longer be able to “pull back” posted players who aren’t receiving enough interest for NPB to achieve its desired financial gain from the transaction. In exchange for that concession from NPB, however, Japanese teams will get 20 percent of the value for a player who signs an MLB contract worth less than $25 million, 17.5 percent of the value for a player who signs a contract worth more than $25 million and up to $50 million, and 15 percent of the value for a player who signs a deal worth more than $50 million. NPB clubs will earn 25 percent of the value of minor-league contracts signed by Japanese players. That system goes into effect next offseason. MLB owners still need to ratify the agreement, but they’re likely to do so next Friday.
Obviously, the biggest impact of this move is that it all but guarantees that highly-touted two-way player Shohei Ohtani will sign with a major-league club this offseason. Though much of his 2017 season was wiped out by injuries, the 23-year-old posted a .942 OPS over 231 plate appearances and a 3.20 ERA over five starts, flashing serious power at the plate and high-90s velocity on his fastball. It’s unknown whether a club will allow him to hit and pitch on a regular basis, but he certainly presents enormous potential in both areas. Ohtani’s NPB team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, will request a $20 million posting fee for him this offseason, according to Sherman.
Ohtani will likely be posted immediately after the ratification, and he’ll have 21 days to sign after his posting. Ohtani and 33-year-old submariner Kazushisa Makita are the only players that will be subject to the patchwork posting rules that will be in effect this offseason. Makita, a former starter who became a full-time reliever in 2016, has been extremely effective out of the bullpen in Japan. Makita surely isn’t going to be counted on to immediately step into a closer’s role, but could be an interesting alternative to more expensive free-agent setup guys like Addison Reed, Pat Neshek, and Bryan Shaw this offseason.