MLB approves Japan deal, allowing Ohtani bidding to start

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.

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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…

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