Japanese team Nippon-Ham Fighters announced they will post Shohei Ohtani this offseason, bringing him a step closer to a high-profile move to Major League Baseball.
Ohtani, 23, was named the MVP of Japan's Pacific League in 2016 as he excelled as the ultra-rare two-way player: Ohtani was a dominant starting pitcher and plays the outfield on days he doesn't pitch.
If the Fighters do indeed post Ohtani, MLB teams will have an opportunity to bid on his rights. On Wednesday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that MLB and NPB, Japan's top baseball league, were working on a one-year extension of the posting system in which Japanese teams receive a lump-sum of up to $20 million from the MLB team that signs their player. The two leagues had also been discussing a new posting system in which Japanese teams would receive a percentage—15–20%, per Sherman—of the player's contract with an MLB team, but the Ham Fighters did not want to do that with Ohtani, as his next contract will be limited to a maximum of a few million dollars by MLB's international signing rules.
Ohtani, at 23 years old, is too young to sign a free-agent contract in the open market. The rules guiding his signing are the same for signing a teenager out of, say, the Dominican Republic or Venezuela. Ohtani will have to sign a minor-league contract with a signing bonus limited by the amount of international bonus pool money a team has. The Rangers ($3.535 million) have the most to offer, according to the Associated Press, followed by the Yankees ($3.25 million).