NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Let the bidding war for Japanese superstar Shohei Otani begin.
Major League Baseball’s owners voted Friday via conference call to ratify a new posting system that allows the pitcher/outfielder to become a free agent in North America. The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball will post Otani with a release fee of $20 million.
Teams will have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Dec. 22 to negotiate with the 23-year-old.
“Major League Baseball values greatly its longstanding relationship with Nippon Professional Baseball and is pleased that the parties have reached an agreement,” Dan Halem, MLB’s chief legal officer, said in a statement. “We believe that this new agreement will allow baseball to continue to flourish in the United States and Japan.”
The Yankees, Rangers, Dodgers, Cubs and Mariners are expected to be among the serious contenders for Otani’s services. The Mets also have expressed interest.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday he plans to “leave no stone unturned” in his bid to sign Otani.
“This is an impact-type player that would make us better,” Cashman said. “I had a chance to personally witness Otani pitch, obviously, how he interacted with teammates, the camaraderie they had within the team. I think he’d be a perfect fit for us, someone that our new manager and coaching staff and players would enjoy having.”
Otani, known as the “Babe Ruth of Japan,” has been a dominant right-handed pitcher and highly productive left-handed hitter over the last five years for the Fighters of the Japan Pacific League.
In 85 career appearances, spanning 543 innings, Otani has a 2.52 ERA. He has averaged 10 strikeouts and three walks per nine innings, and has surrendered just 24 home runs. Scouts have compared the 6-foot-4, 203-pounder to a young Justin Verlander.
As a hitter, the 23-year-old has batted .286 with 48 home runs and 166 RBIs in 403 games. He’s also posted a very good .358 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage.
Under baseball’s labor contract that started last Nov. 30, Otani is restricted to a minor league contract subject to signing bonus restrictions because he is under 25.
Texas has the most money remaining to sign international players under age 25 in its pool for the period running through June 15 at $3,535,000, followed by the Yankees at $3.5 million, Minnesota ($3,245,000), Pittsburgh ($2,266,750), Seattle ($1,557,500) and Miami ($1.49 million).
Also being posted this month will be right-handed pitcher Kazuhisa Makita of the Saitama Seibu Lions. The 33-year-old reliever was 3-3 with a 2.59 ERA last season.