Shohei Otani And The Mets

The young man pictured above is Shohei Otani – the flame-throwing high school phenom out of Japan. The story about this kid is that he can dial it up to about 99 MPH on occasion at just 18 years old, and because of this, he has drawn instant comparisons to Yu Darvish. Patrick Newman at NPB Tracker says it best when he says, “Otani also has a similarly live arm, though with a little more velocity and a lot less polish than Darvish exhibited as a high schooler.” (You can read that article here if you are interested. It is a nice scouting report complete with some video.) I came across the small blurb on MLBTR about two days ago and he caught my attention.

So now comes the matter of why this kid is so special. Apparently, he has been considering making the jump over to the MLB right away at 18 and skipping out on the NPB draft, which takes place in two days. This has basically been confirmed, but I do not want to jump on that statement. He creates a really interesting situation because of that. See, Otani is technically an International Free Agent if he jumps over right now, which means he would count against the new cap placed on IFA signings.

Now, while you hear the names of the Dodgers, Red Sox, Rangers, Orioles, and Yankees tossed around with him, it did not discourage me enoguh to pen a small piece on him. This is where it gets a little dicey because I am by no means an expert on the matter of IFA. Basically, if I make a mistake here, a correction and explanation would be great.

The cap resets on July 2nd of next year (2013) so if the Mets want to sign him, they have to use the money allotted for 2012. Becuse Otani is an IFA, he is limited to the IFA signing bonus cap, which I believe is around $2.9 MM. The Mets have already spent $1.75 MM on Amed Rosario (using the spelling BA released) – a 16-year old shortstop. I do not know much about the Mets IFA pool, but on average, we can guess they have about $1 MM to throw as a bonus to Otani. From there, he would enter the system as any other IFA would at the discretion of the team.

A team can go over the cap by up to 5% by paying a tax while going over any further limits the amount of money you can shell out to IFAs in the following years. Of course, this is the Mets, so you should not expect any overages…especially for minor league players, how crazy would that be? Investing over-slot type money for a prospect… The 5% would amount to about 3.075 MM, without including the 75% tax on the overage.

I expect Otani to sign before July of next year, but I am disappointed because I have heard basically nothing about the Mets trying to court this guy. I would honestly offer whatever money we have left in our IFA budget until next July to the guy. The reason I find myself so enamored with Otani is the fact that he would have the time to go through an MLB minor league system and develop as any other raw prospect would. If you all remember, just a little while back in 2009, the Mets had reps looking at Yusei Kikuchi, who decided to stay in Japan after much deliberation.

Bottom line, Otani could or could not pan out. He is raw, but as an MLB GM, could you really complain about adding a prospect for $2.9 MM who can bring at 100 mph? I wish the Mets could go after him, but in all honesty, all signs point to nothing. But go ahead guys, go off – How do you feel about the IFA SB cap or the IFA market in general? If we had all $2.9 MM free, would you spend it all on Otani? Lastly, where do you expect him to sign? The smart money is either on the Red Sox or the Rangers, I believe.

By the way, if you missed the last episode of MMO Radio, which features myself and Pete Shapiro discussing the 40-man roster and the 2012 AAA/AA seasons, you can catch it on demand/podcast right here.