There is a 6-foot-4 Japanese right handed pitcher that throws a fastball in the 99-100 mph range that is interested in coming to pitch in America and one Japanese report has the Yankees among the teams “leading the chase” to sign him, according to Mark Feinsand of the NY Daily News.
You might not have heard of Shohei Otani yet, but that’s probably because he’s only 18-years-old. He’s extremely impressive though because of his combination of age, size, and velocity.
The unfortunate part for the Yankees is that part of what makes him so impressive — his age. Because Otani is only 18, teams will be subject to the spending restrictions on international free agents and the Yankees have nearly spent all of the $2.9 million they have been allotted.
How there are two ways the Yankees could still land him, but both are unlikely. If they go more than $250K past the $2.9 million allotment then they can’t sign IFA’s next year so that rules that out. Or they could wait until July to sign him when the spending limit is reset for the year. The latter is very unlikely because it’s not like the Yankees could outspend anybody even then so Otani has no motivation to wait that long.
Now this doesn’t kill the Yankees chances even if it does make them extremely unlikely to get into the mix. There is a provision in the CBA that allows them to trade for another team’s IFA allotment, up to 50 percent. That’s never actually happened though so I’m not sure how it works, but the Yankees could potentially find themselves with another $1.45 million to spend that way.
My guess is that the report is inaccurate. I’m sure the Yankees have had plenty of scouts to watch this kid and that’s probably been mistaken for interest. It also doesn’t hurt page views to list the Yankees in teams that might be interested. In reality, the Yankees signing Otani is a very big long shot.