Report: MLB not willing to make exception for Shohei Otani

The Shohei Otani vs. MLB saga continues. (Getty Images/Masterpress)
The Shohei Otani vs. MLB saga continues. (Getty Images/Masterpress)

The will they, won’t they situation involving Major League Baseball and Japanese superstar Shohei Otani may have reached its conclusion Tuesday. Despite some rumors to the contrary, the league does not seem inclined to offer an exception for Otani should he choose to come over to MLB next offseason, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

If true, that would be a major disappointment for fans who want to see what Otani can do in the majors. The 22-year-old starred as both a pitcher and a designated hitter for the Nippon Ham Fighters last season. Otani performed so well in both roles that he actually won Nippon Professional Baseball’s awards for best pitcher and best DH.

While the posting system between NPB and MLB has always been somewhat unique, a rule in the collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) has complicated the process. As a result of the new agreement, teams are now limited to a $5 million spending cap on international free agents each offseason. That limit applies to any player under the age of 25.

Under the new rule, if Otani chooses to come over before he turns 25, teams can only offer him a contract worth around $5 million. The actual figure can be higher, as clubs can trade for international spending money, but Otani wouldn’t make more than $10 million. That’s not exactly enticing for Otani, who many believe would make something near $200 million without the spending cap.

Because of that, it was widely believed Otani would wait until 2019 before coming to MLB. He would be 25 at that point, and not subject to spending limits. Under the new rule, that’s really the only scenario where Otani would get a big-time contract.

There was some hope the system would change in order to allow Otani to come over sooner. Our own Jeff Passan heard from some that MLB could possibly alter the new rule to make that a reality.

That no longer appears to be the case, according to Rosenthal.

Despite all that, Otani boldly proclaimed he would like to play in MLB in 2018. If he follows through, Otani would forfeit a huge contract in order to come over earlier than expected. It’s possible Otani doesn’t care about the money, and is simply eager to show off his skills in MLB. It’s also possible that he changes his mind at some point during the year, knowing he can make a lot more if he waits out MLB.

Rules are made to be broken, of course, and if Otani does come over while the international spending cap still applies, there are probably some teams willing to find ways to skirt around the rule.

We’re not saying that’s the ethical way to do things, but it wouldn’t be the first time a team used shady practices in order to sign a player.

Otani is considered an incredible talent, and the league is missing out the longer he remains in Japan. Teams are missing out on his talent as well, which is why some executives were willing to adjust the rule even though it would lead to them paying more money for his services. Otani can help a team win a World Series right now. Contending clubs with money want him to come over and help them immediately, not two or three years from now.

Otani coming over would be a good thing for the league. You would hope MLB officials realize that, but after Tuesday’s news it’s tough to be sure.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik