How much each MLB team can pay Shohei Otani in free agency


How much each MLB team can pay Shohei Otani in free agency

NEW YORK — Texas, the New York Yankees and Minnesota can pay the most to a young international amateur free agent as highly touted pitcher-outfielder Shohei Otani prepares to enter the market, and Major League Baseball and its Japanese counterpart have agreed to the outlines of a deal to keep the old posting system for this offseason.

The Rangers can agree to a maximum $3,535,000 signing bonus from their pool that covers July 2 through next June 15, according to figures compiled by Major League Baseball and obtained by The Associated Press. New York can pay $3.25 million and the Twins $3,245,000.

Just three other teams can give him a seven-figure signing bonus: Pittsburgh ($2,266,750), Miami ($1.74 million) and Seattle ($1,570,500).

After that comes Philadelphia ($900,000), Milwaukee ($765,000), Arizona ($731,250), Baltimore ($660,000), Boston ($462,000) and Tampa Bay ($440,500).

Twelve teams are capped at $300,000 as penalties for exceeding their signing bonus pool under baseball’s previous collective bargaining agreement, which did not have a cap: Atlanta, the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, Cincinnati, Houston, Kansas City, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland, St. Louis, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington.

Other clubs have even less available: Detroit ($159,500), the Los Angeles Angels ($150,000), the New York Mets ($105,000), Toronto ($50,000), and Cleveland and Colorado ($10,000 apiece).

Each team started with a pool of $4.75 million, $5.25 million or $5.75 million, and amounts could be traded. Most of the pool money already has been spent on Latin American prospects.

Under baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement, the 23-year-old Otani 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.

If he waits until he is 25 to enter MLB, there would be no restrictions and he likely would get a deal for more than $100 million. MLB has warned of severe penalties if a team attempts to sign Otani to a secret long-term contract, then announce it in future years.

Otani chose the Creative Artists Agency’s Nez Balelo to represent him, a person familiar with the decision told the AP this week, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.

While the posting agreement between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball has expired, 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, also 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.

Starting next offseason, the fee would be 15 percent of the guarantee of a major league contract and 20 percent of the signing bonus if a player is subject to bonus pools, the person said. MLB is waiting for the players’ association to approve the agreement before submitting it to MLB owners for their ratification, the person said.

Otani is the reigning Pacific League MVP and is 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA this year for the Nippon Ham Fighters, limited because of thigh and ankle injuries. He is batting .332 in 65 games with 16 doubles, eight homers and 31 RBIs.

He has a 42-15 record with a 2.52 ERA and 624 strikeouts in 543 innings over five seasons, and a .286 batting average with 48 homers and 166 RBIs.

MRI reveals Jeff Samardzija has strained pectoral muscle


MRI reveals Jeff Samardzija has strained pectoral muscle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly left Scottsdale unscathed. Instead they'll leave with an injured No. 3 starter, but the news on Jeff Samardzija late Thursday night was good news. 

Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters that Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the start of the season. But given that Samardzija, who has had a rough spring, went for an MRI on his shoulder a week before the season opener, team officials have to be breathing a sigh of relief. 

"He'll go a week without throwing the ball and then crank it back up," Bochy told reporters, including Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. "It should't take long to get him back on the mound so it's good news."

Samardzija was supposed to take the ball next Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Instead, the Giants will rely on two young pitchers and a non-roster invitee at the back end of their rotation. The injury ends a three-way race for the final two spots between Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Derek Holland. The Giants could use all three in the rotation until Samardzija is healthy, or they could skip their No. 5 starter and move one of the pitchers into the bullpen. 

Because the Giants have two off days before their seventh game, Madison Bumgarner can line up to pitch three of the first nine games. The Giants have been considering that all spring, although they have yet to publicly announce a decision one way or the other. Bumgarner said early in camp that he would be up to the challenge, and given how sharp he was all spring, that might be the best way to tread water until Samardzija is cleared to return to the rotation.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”