The 18-year-old Japanese pitcher who hits 99-100 mph, Shohei Otani, was drafted by the Nippon Ham Fighters in the NPB draft this week which was only slightly unexpected after he declared his intent to pitch in America next year.
This only slightly changes things, but it does help the Yankees out if only a little bit. The initial rumors was that after being drafted he was ineligible to be a free agent in America until April after the Ham Fighters lost his rights. However that’s not the case, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America, Otani is indeed eligible to sign with an American team at any time. It would upset the Ham Fighters and potentially the entire NPB, who still retain his rights and don’t want the MLB poaching their amatuer players, so it’s possible he’ll wait until April to sign just to avoid upsetting everybody.
By April he’ll probably be quick to sign so he can get his season underway as soon as possible, but by that time he’ll only be three months away from July when MLB teams get a full allotment of international free agent money. If that happens then there is a good chance the Yankees, who spent most of their IFA money by now, back into the mix.
Again, this is all highly unlikely, but there aren’t a lot of 18-year-olds that come along who can throw like Otani can so it can’t be completely ruled out that the Yankees would do something creative here.
Speaking of creative, the Yankees also have the option of trading for another team’s unspent IFA money up to $1.45 million, even though such a trade has not happened yet. They could also exceed their $2.9 million IFA allotment, but that would subject them to penalties that includes a 100 percent tax on the overages and they wouldn’t be able to sign an IFA to more than $250K during the 2013 season.