Shohei Otani

If you aren’t familiar with the Japanese star pitcher and hitter, get ready because he is about to burst on the scene here in the U.S. Japanese media reports that Otani will be posted this offseason and thus be eligible to come to MLB next season. But unlike previous situations with Japanese stars, Otani is not eligible for free agency and therefore will be subject to the international signing pool limits in terms of his signing bonus, and regular minimum salary rules in terms of his contract. That means he can get no more than $3.55-million as a signing bonus and will earn the major league minimum until he is arbitration eligible after 2020. That should lead to a feeding frenzy for him. Teams will still have to pay a posting fee, estimated at $20-million, but the winning club would pay around $25-million total for three years of a potential star.

Because the signing bonus comes from each clubs international signing bonus money, there isn’t a lot left. Most clubs stocked up on international players in July. The Rangers, Yankees, and Twins can offer just over $3-million. Pittsburgh can offer over $2-million and Miami and Seattle can only offer over $1-million. Every other club is below $1-million with 18 of them at $300,000 or less.

Otani is intriguing because he is young, just 23, and has been one of the best pitchers and hitters in Japan. He reportedly wants to do both in the majors, which would suggest he signs with an AL team as he probably can’t be a starting pitcher and play defense on his off days regularly. But, it is anyone’s guess where he will end up as he could have waited a few more years and come to the majors as a true free agent. By not doing so, he has forfeited millions, so money is presumably not his motivating factor.

The bigger question for U.S. fans is how good could he be? Fangraphs took a deep dive on this question last year. Link here, and the short answer is pretty darned good. They suggest he could be an All-Star on both sides of the ball. For about $25-million, a lot of teams will be interested to see if that is true.