The Rangers have one tangible advantage in the bidding for Japanese hybrid superstar Shohei Otani, according to the Associated Press: They can offer him the biggest signing bonus of any team in the majors.
But even that tangible advantage is relatively minimal in the world of multi-million dollar sports.
The AP reports the Rangers have $3,535,000 in international bonus pool money still remaining, $285,000 more than the New York Yankees. The Yankees, of course, have their own advantages. They went to the AL Championship Series this season, have the strongest brand in baseball (which could lead to more lucrative endorsement deals) and play in the biggest market.
Minnesota is the only other club with at least $3 million to invest in the signing bonus, holding $3.245 million, just $5,000 less than the Yankees, according to the report.
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The Rangers were judicious with their original bonus pool of $4.75 million this summer, then added "slots" with trades of Yeyson Yrizzari (to the Chicago White Sox) and Brallan Perez (to Baltimore) this summer.
The question for Otani is how much money will matter. The only real difference in the initial contract he could sign is the bonus money. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, Otani, 23, can only agree to a minor league contract that is subject to signing bonus pools. If added to a big league roster, he would have a salary for about the minimum $545,000 next season and not be eligible for salary arbitration until 2020 at the earliest. MLB officials earlier this year indicated clubs were warned they would be subject to severe penalties if they attempt to sign Otani to an under-the-table long-term deal that would be announced at a later date.
According to the AP story, the posting agreement between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball has expired, but the sides agreed several weeks ago to the outlines of a deal that would, for this offseason, continue the rules of the previous agreement, a person familiar with that negotiation said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made. The rules call for the Japanese club to set a maximum $20 million posting fee, and any MLB club willing to bid that amount would be able to negotiate with Otani for 30 days.