Report | Shohei Otani set to be posted after 2017 season

Japan's pinch hitter Shohei Otani watches the flight of his ground-rule double with Netherlands' catcher Dashenko Ricardo in the seventh inning of their international exhibition series baseball game at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

One of the best Japanese baseball players to emerge in many years, Shohei Otani has his sights set on coming to the United States and playing at his sport’s highest level soon.

The versatile 23-year-old prodigy will attempt to sign with an MLB franchise despite a system in place that would make it rather unusual for a player in his position to do so. Nevertheless, the phenom who hits and pitches on an elite level intends to try his luck in America, Yahoo Japan reports.

Otani’s team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, intends to post him after this season. And what will be interesting about this case is money won’t really be a factor, since there’s a remarkably low ceiling — for a player of his talents — available if Otani comes to the States in 2018.

Otani has turned in quality seasons as a pitcher and as a hitter. In 2017, the outfielder/pitcher is hitting .346/.416/.574 in 51 games in this his fifth season with the Fighters. He finished last season with an OPS of 1.004. As a pitcher, Otani turned in dominant campaigns from 2014-16. His best work came last season, when the young right-hander — who bats left-handed — finished with a 1.86 ERA with 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports noted the decision to come to the USA in advance of his age-24 season will cost Otani hundreds of millions of dollars. Instead of commanding a high-end contract, he will be subject to the international bonus pool rather than true free agency.

So instead of a bidding war, teams will have to make other kinds of pitches to Otani. This could induce a fascinating collective pursuit, since every team will be interested in signing him as an international free agent.

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