Texas Rangers rumors: Shohei Ohtani, the much-lauded 23 year old pitcher/DH with the Nippon Ham Fighters, is coming to the United States for the 2018, per reports out of Japan. And that could be a very, very big deal for the Texas Rangers.
We have been following Ohtani here at LSB since 2012, when it was rumored that he would come to the U.S. as an 18 year old, forgoing the Japanese League altogether. Ohtani instead signed with the Ham Fighters, and has been the subject of much wistful gazing by American teams ever since. He’s considered the best pitcher in Japan, and a legitimate #1 starting pitcher.
Ohtani had been on the shelf for much of this season, but started throwing bullpen sessions last month, leading to talk that MLB teams would be watching and preparing, should he opt to come to the U.S. this offseason. And the Rangers have long been one of the teams said to be most aggressive on Ohtani — Jon Daniels himself went to Japan in May to watch Ohtani.
Under the new CBA and current posting rules, any team willing to pay $20 million to the Ham Fighters for the rights to Ohtani can negotiate with him (though only the team that signs him actually pays the $20 million) — however, teams can only use money available in their international free agent bonus pool to sign Ohtani, since he is under 25. For the Rangers, that would be $4.75 million, less whatever they have already spent on international free agents subject to the pool, plus whatever amounts they acquire from other teams via trade. Texas got $500,000 in slot money from the Baltimore Orioles for Brallan Perez, and an unknown amount from the Chicago White Sox for Yeyson Yrizarri (though Evan Grant thinks it is in the $1.25-1.5 million range, with the amount having not been disclosed because it is a lot). Teams can only trade for 75% of their original pool amount (the pool amount varies from $4.75 million to $5.75 million, depending on the team), so Texas could trade for roughly $3.5 million on top of their $4.75 million, giving them about $8.25 million total to spend.
The DMN says that the Rangers had already used, on July 2, around $3.1 million of their bonus pool allotment, which would leave them with around $1.65 million of their original pool, plus $500,000 for Perez, plus whatever they got for Yrizarri, plus whatever they might trade for. Assuming they trade for the maximum they can acquire, that would give them roughly $5 million to offer Ohtani to sign.
The question, of course, is how much weight Ohtani is going to put on the money. If he wanted to maximize his payday, he would wait two more years, then come over when he is no longer subject to the bonus pool limitations — in such a case, he could potentially be looking at a $200M+ payday. At the same time, if the Rangers can offer him $5 million, and a team like, say, the Padres, who have scouted him aggressively but are subject to a $300K per player spending cap, can offer him less than 10% of that...well, that could sway the decision.
In any case, we probably have three months or so where this will be the prime subject of offseason discussion around baseball. The Rangers will, I expect, be in the center of things. So get ready...you will be hearing about this, and we will be talking about this, a lot going forward.