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MLB approves Japan deal, allowing Ohtani bidding to start

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  • By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
Pictured:
  • FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2015, file photo, Japan's starter Shohei Otani pitches against South Korea during the first inning of their semifinal game at the Premier12 world baseball tournament at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. A person familiar with the decision says Major League Baseball owners on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, have approved a new posting agreement with their Japanese counterparts in a move that allows bidding to start for coveted pitcher and outfielder Shohei Ohtani. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)

By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball owners voted unanimously Friday to approve a new posting agreement with their Japanese counterparts, a move that allowed bidding to start for coveted pitcher and outfielder Shohei Ohtani.

Following the deal with Nippon Professional Baseball, Ohtani was put up for bid by the Pacific League’s Nippon Ham Fighters for the maximum $20 million posting fee. That opened a window for the 23-year-old to reach agreement on a contract with an MLB team until 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 22.

Under MLB’s new collective bargaining agreement, Ohtani is limited to a minor league contract subject to a team’s signing bonus pool. Texas has the most available at $3,535,000, followed by the New York Yankees ($3.5 million), Minnesota ($3.07 million), Pittsburgh ($2,266,750), Seattle ($1,557,500), Miami ($1.49 million) and the Los Angeles Angels ($1,315,000).

Ohtani was in Los Angeles, a person familiar with his location said. That person spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.

His agent, CAA Baseball co-head Nez Balelo, sent a memorandum to all teams Nov. 24 asking for “presentations in both Japanese and English via email” allowing the agency to “share it with the Ohtani family so we can proceed with our due diligence.”

According to a copy of the memo obtained by The Associated Press, presentations should include:

—”An evaluation of Shohei’s talent as a pitcher and/or a hitter;”
—”Player development, medical, training and player performance philosophies and capabilities;”
—”Major league, minor league and spring training facilities;”
—”Resources for Shohei’s cultural assimilation;”
—”A detailed plan for integrating Shohei into the organization;”
—”Why the city and franchise are a desirable place to play;”
—”Relevant marketplace characteristics;”
—”And anything else that would help Shohei choose a subset of clubs on which to focus.”

Ohtani is limited to a minor league contract because of restrictions imposed by the MLB collective bargaining agreement adopted in November 2016. Foreign players are not eligible for major league contracts until they turn 25 and have six seasons of professional experience.

Ohtani was the 2016 Pacific League MVP and was 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA this year for the Fighters, limited because of thigh and ankle injuries. He hit .332 in 65 games with 16 doubles, eight homers and 31 RBIs.

A right-hander, Ohtani has a 42-15 record with a 2.52 ERA and 624 strikeouts in 543 innings over five seasons, and a .286 batting average with 48 homers and 166 RBIs.

In addition, MLB said Kazuhisa Makita, a 33-year-old right-hander on the Pacific League’s Seibu Lions, will be posted by Dec. 31.

As part of the agreement with NPB that runs from next Nov. 1 through Oct. 31, 2021, a tiered system for posting fees will be put in place. The fee will be 20 percent of the first $25 million of a major league contract and the percentage drops to 17.5 percent of the next $25 million and 15 percent of any amount over $50 million.

There will be a supplemental fee of 15 percent of any earned bonuses, salary escalators and exercised options.

For minor league contracts, the fee will be 25 percent of the signing bonus, and there will be a supplemental fee for any foreign professionals who at first agree to minor league deals that include major league terms that later come into force.

Starting next offseason, the posting period will be shortened to Nov. 1 through Dec. 5, and the period to reach a deal after a player is posted will revert of its traditional 30-day length. Under the previous agreement, the time period was Nov. 1 through March 1.
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For more AP baseball coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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