Report: Otani will sign minors deal when he joins MLB club

Brandon Wile
KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP / Getty

Shohei Otani certainly isn't coming to North America for the money.

At least not initially.

The Japanese phenom is expected to be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters in the winter and will be eligible to sign as a free agent with any MLB team.

However, due to changes in MLB's collective bargaining agreement, Otani will be forced to sign a minor-league contract, and the international money agreed to will be treated as a signing bonus, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

If Otani's skills weren't enough to make him the offseason's most intriguing free agent, the cost could make him the biggest bargain in the majors. Passan reports Otani will likely make the league minimum of around $545,000 in his first year, and will be subject to MLB's service rules, meaning he won't become a free agent until accruing six full years of service time.

Otani will be able to land some money through a signing bonus, but not the lucrative figures that some international free agents have signed in the past. Depending on the available international bonus pool money available with the team that does sign him, Otani can agree to a signing bonus ranging anywhere between, $300,000 and $10 million, according to the Japan Times.

The 23-year-old, two-way phenom, has dealt with injuries this season, limiting him to 51 games at the plate, and just 4 2/3 innings on the mound. He's hitting .346/.416/.574 with seven homers, and 14 doubles in 185 plate appearances, and owns a 2.60 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 601 strikeouts across 522 1/3 career innings in Japan.

There's expected to be no shortage of interest in Otani as clubs have already sent scouts to Japan to watch him play. However, before he can officially become eligible to sign, MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball need to agree on a new posting system. The current system is capped at $20 million, according to Passan.

Otani could have waited until after turning 25 to avoid being subject to the international signing bonus pool and sign for any contract he commanded, but his eagerness to play in the majors made him willing to accept less money.