Otani was the potential No. 1 overall pick in this week's Japanese draft until he announced yesterday that he plans to play in the United States. The 18-year-old righthander is extremely athletic and projectable at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, and his fastball has been clocked in the upper 90s. He also throws a slider and a splitter, though his secondary pitches and command are still works in progress. After the Dodgers met with Otani in September, assistant GM Logan White told the Japanese press that Otani had the talent to be the top overall choice in the MLB draft.
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams get $2.9 million with which to sign international amateurs. But unlike the restrictions for exceeding draft bonus pools, which could cost a club its next two first-round choices, the penalties for surpassing international bonus pools aren't as harsh. A team that blows past its international pool by 15 percent or more would pay a 100-percent tax on the overage and be forbidden to pay an international amateur more than $250,000 during next year's signing period.
For a player with Otani's upside, that's not much of a deterrent. Also consider that in the draft, a player of his caliber would be available only to the teams choosing at the very top. On the worldwide market, all 30 teams are in play. Clubs accustomed to picking at the bottom of the draft may be willing to pay dearly for the opportunity to sign him.
Three teams—the Dodgers, Rangers and Red Sox—have met with Otani in Japan, and he said yesterday that he plans on signing with one of them. We don't have access to how much money clubs have remaining in their international bonus pools, but Texas appears to have the most among those three teams. (The Rangers' $4.5 million signing of Beras doesn't count against the pool because it happened in February.) Boston, which spent a combined $1.36 million on Dominican righthander Jose Almonte, Dominican shortstop Wendell Rijo and Venezuelan lefty Dedgar Jimenez, has the least money among the three clubs.
But as I said, I don't think cap space is going to matter when it comes to signing Otani. For the same reason, I don't think he'll have to wait until next year's signing period to maximize his money. He'll need some time to develop, but Otani has a special arm and will get paid accordingly.