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MLB rumors: Shohei Otani will play in majors in 2018

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South Korea v Japan - WBSC Premier 12 Semi Final Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images

Japanese superstar Shohei Otani will enter the posting system this winter and plans to play in the major leagues next season, according to multiple reports out of Japan (via Yahoo’s Jeff Passan). The news doesn’t come as a surprise, as Otani has been vocal about his desire to join a major-league team as soon as possible.

Otani’s decision to come to North America for 2018 has major financial implications, as the 23-year-old’s signing bonus will be subject to the new hard cap imposed by the league’s new collective bargaining agreement. Otani will leave hundreds of millions of dollars on the table by coming for 2018 instead of waiting two years, as every international free agent under 25 must be signed under the cap instead of being available on a free market.

This, as Passan notes, means that Otani’s free agency will be a rare case in which money is not a major factor. While teams like the Red Sox and Yankees will have the slight advantage of offering up to $8.3 million and clubs like the Dodgers, Cubs, Padres and Astros are limited to offering $300k due to previous penalties, the difference is negligible enough to suggest that Otani’s decision will ultimately come down to other factors.

The Rangers and Padres have long been seen as two of the most aggressive clubs involved in the Otani sweepstakes, with Texas previously seen as a legitimate threat because of Otani’s relationship with ex-Ranger Yu Darvish. All 30 teams will be involved in the bidding for Otani this winter, making his free agency one of the most unique processes in baseball history.

Otani will become available once Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball agree to a new posting system and teams bid a flat rate to the Nippon Ham Fighters in an effort to negotiate with Otani. This fee, which currently sits at $20 million, will likely change before November, according to Passan, though the sides are fully expecting to get a deal done before Otani’s free agency begins.

Otani, of course, is a generational talent who has been dubbed as the “Japanese Babe Ruth” due to his ability to produce as a two-way player. He will be considered one of the best international free agents in major-league history (if not the best one) and could shake up the dynamics of the league in a major way.