Nobody could have fully seen this development coming when Jon Daniels said, "in anticipation of getting the contract approved we've had to effectively sit out the signing period. We've been in touch with MLB and continue to cooperate in their investigation."
He was referring to the holdup from MLB in approving the signing of Jairo Beras that the Texas Rangers had made prior to the beginning of the international signing period, which traditionally begins on July 2nd . Beras had long been considered a 16-year-old and was not going to be eligible to sign until July 2nd of this year. That is normally not that big of a deal, but this was the year that new caps were placed on the signing of international prospects, with each team receiving an allotment of $2.9 million to spend each year. The Rangers signed Beras to a $4.5 million contract and provided documentation that he was actually 17-years-old and eligible to sign.
At the time of the signing, MLB immediately announced the signing was under investigation and took significantly longer to make a decision than was expected. Eventually the Rangers were allowed to keep Beras along with the contract, but he was suspended for one-year, which actually was not much of a punishment at all. Players such as Beras spend most of their time during their first year in places such as instructional leagues or in the Dominican Summer League and losing a year should not really impact his development at all.
During that period of time that the Rangers waited on a decision from MLB, the July 2nd date passed right on by with the Rangers virtually sitting the entire thing out. The Rangers did not know how the Beras signing was going to turn out and they said that they had basically put their entire international budget into Beras. Since that time the Rangers have made a few small signings, including Juremi Profar who is the younger brother of Jurickson Profar, but they have a large portion of that $2.9 million still sitting around in case anything great turned up.
Well low and behold something has now turned up. Shohei Otani, who is the top high school pitcher in Japan has announced that he intends to sign with a MLB team rather than play in the Nippon Professional Baseball league first. Otani has scouts very excited, as a 6' 4" right-handed pitcher who can sit in the mid 90's and bump it up to the high nineties or even 100mph on occasion. He is far from big league ready, but is the type of pitcher that would have scouts considering him towards the top of draft boards if he were in the United States.
Since Otani is choosing not to play in the NPB first, he will be treated like a free agent. There will not be a bidding process to bring him to the US, like there was with Yu Darvish. The main holdup will be that teams only have that $2.9 million allotment that can be used. The positive for the Rangers is that they have almost all of that money left. The Rangers have been heavily involved in Japan over the past few years and should have as much of their international allotment left as any team. If the Rangers want Otani and there is word that they are interested, they should be one of the front runners to make it happen.
It is kind of strange that the Rangers could end up with what was considered to be the top position player in this year's international group along with what will probably be the top pitching prospect as well. Who knows how much the Rangers knew about Otani's desire to play here or not, but it definitely could be why they were not big players in Latin America this summer. Whether the Rangers sign Otani or not, it will be interesting to see a top pitching prospect like Otani developed in a big league organization rather than in Japan. However, it would be really enjoyable to see him developed in the Rangers' farm system. Here is one more development to make this offseason even more intriguing.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.
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