The best solution to Shohei Ohtani’s fantasy baseball eligibility

Sometime in the next three weeks, one major league team is going to reap a huge windfall by signing Japanese star Shohei Ohtani to a significantly below-market contract. Ohtani's abilities as both a pitcher and a hitter will give his MLB team tremendous versatility no other current player can offer. Fantasy owners, however, are unlikely to be able to leverage Ohtani's two-way skills quite as easily.Fantasy's most intriguing players:  Ohtani tops 2018 listThere's already been considerable discussion about the best way for fantasy leagues to handle Ohtani. Is he a pitcher? A hitter? Can he be both? Will our commissioner service be able to handle everything?There seem to be three possible options: 1. The league creates two versions of Ohtani: the hitter and the pitcher. Both are drafted separately and their hitting and pitching stats are calculated independently.2. There is only one Ohtani, with eligibility as both a pitcher and a DH/utility hitter. His fantasy owner must choose the role to use him at the beginning of each lineup period. 3. There is one Ohtani. His owner gets credit for all his hitting and pitching stats.There will likely be some variations of all three, depending on league formats (daily vs. weekly lineups, etc.), but those seem to be the primary ways to handle the situation.  LABR rulingAs the commissioner of the Leagues of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR), it's my responsibility to clarify any rules issues for the country's oldest fantasy baseball league.I believe Option 2 is the way to go. Thankfully, the folks at, who administer our league, are fully on board. Ohtani played both positions in Japan last year and should be able to fill either role for his fantasy owners, but he can't take up two roster spots at once. As I mentioned in an email to the league earlier this week, Ohtani's versatility gives his LABR owner the added value his MLB team receives in having a player with two-way Continue Reading

Cincinnati Reds Beat Podcast: The Shohei Ohtani Pitch

Because money doesn't seem to be a determining factor, all 30 teams in Major League Baseball are in on Shohei Ohtani. While that gives the Cincinnati Reds a better shot at the Japanese phenom, it doesn't mean they have a good one. No one knows what Ohtani wants, giving the Reds a 1-in-30 shot at him at best.So how would the Reds pitch Cincinnati to Ohtani? Would it focus on the market size and the remove from the limelight? Would the fact that the Reds haven't had a Japanese player before he a help or hindrance? That's the subject of this week's episode of the Reds Beat Podcast.We also discuss the Reds' decision to not renew the contract of broadcaster Jim Kelch, and take a brief look at the host of pitchers who could possibly make sense for the Reds in free agency.And this week in What's Zach Watching, we discuss a bounce-back season from Mr. Robot, while C. Trent caught Coco over the Thanksgiving holiday.How to listen:• In the podcast section of the Reds app, available on iTunes and Google Play• Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher Radio• Subscribe on Audioboom• Or simply hit play below  Continue Reading

How the Reds could land Japanese star Shohei Ohtani

Dick Williams can see Shohei Ohtani in a Reds uniform, even if others scoff at the idea.The Reds general manager says the team has “serious interest” in signing Ohtani, even if it’s a long shot for many reasons. But, he notes, it’s not impossible.Ohtani is the most sought-after free agent on the market this year. He’s 23 and is both an elite starting pitcher and power hitter. All 30 teams are expected to at least make some pitch for Ohtani’s services, in part, because he’ll come at a $197 million-or-so discount.  More: Shohei Ohtani asked MLB teams for their best pitch; here's who offers a good fit The No. 1 thing for the Reds to land Ohtani, according to insiders, is that Ohtani has to want to come to Cincinnati. That’s up to the Reds, led by Williams, to make that case.“Clearly, for him, now is the time he wants to come over. I really can’t speak to what’s going in his head, but that indicates to me that he wants to get here and he wants to embark on accomplishing the goals he’s set for himself,” Williams said Monday. “That gives us some optimism we can make a case for why we would present a good opportunity. We've put ourselves in a good position for the next couple of years. He might find it an attractive fit for what he's looking for. But you’re really guessing as to what it is that motivates him.” What makes the Ohtani recruitment different than any other free-agent signing is that Ohtani’s actions already show that this decision is about more than just the team that can offer him the most money. If Ohtani were searching for the most money in any deal, he would wait two years before coming to the United States. According to the collective bargaining agreement, no team can offer more than its international signing bonus pool. For now, the Texas Rangers can offer the most money to Ohtani ($3,535,000), followed by the Yankees ($3.5 Continue Reading

Shohei Ohtani asked MLB teams for their best pitch; here’s who offers a good fit

The letter recently sent to all major league teams on behalf of Shohei Ohtani reinforces the notion that the Japanese two-way star will be emphasizing factors beyond money in deciding where to cast his lot when he leaps into American baseball for the 2018 season, as expected.For one, Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, asked teams not to submit financial terms. More significantly, restrictions on international signings will limit Ohtani’s bonus to a maximum of about $3.5 million, depending on the club he chooses, and allow him to sign only a minor-league deal.That makes him affordable to all teams, although they would also have to put up a posting fee of $20 million for the right to negotiate with him.The letter asks the teams to provide information, in English and Japanese, on matters such as their player-development and medical staffs, their facilities, resources to ease Ohtani’s assimilation and the desirability of the franchise, city and marketplace. It also requests the clubs’ evaluation of Ohtani as a hitter and/or pitcher.With those elements in mind, here’s a rundown of the teams that may be in best position to land Ohtani, who has expressed a strong desire to display his hitting skills on days when he’s not pitching:Texas RangersArmed with a 100-mph fastball and a sharp breaking ball, Ohtani holds more appeal to major league teams as a pitcher than hitter, although both skills are highly rated. The Rangers, who had a 4.66 starters’ ERA last season, need to fill at least two holes in the rotation and also have room for an outfielder/designated hitter.But what makes the Rangers strong candidates is their successful handling of Yu Darvish’s transition to the big leagues, starting in 2012. Ohtani idolizes Darvish, looks upon him as a big brother and took his No. 11 when joining Darvish’s old club, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Ohtani will most certainly consult with Darvish before making his decision. Continue Reading

Report: New posting agreement opens bidding for Shohei Ohtani to begin next week

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball, its players’ union and the Japanese commissioner’s office agreed Tuesday to a new posting system that could allow star pitcher-outfielder Shohei Ohtani to be put up for bid next week, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.The agreement is still not in writing and must be ratified by Major League Baseball, Nippon Professional Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, the person said on condition of anonymity because no comments were authorized.MLB owners are scheduled to vote for ratification on Dec. 1, and Ohtani is expected to be posted then or the following day, the person said. The deal calls for the negotiating period this offseason to be cut to 21 days from 30. The posting fee limit this offseason remains $20 million, and Ohtani’s club, the Pacific League’s Nippon Ham Fighters, is expected to seek the maximum for the 23-year-old star.As part of the deal, a tiered system for posting fees will start next Nov. 1. The fee will be 20% of the first $25 million of a major league contract, including earned bonuses and options. The percentage drops to 17.5% of the next $25 million and 15% of any amount over $50 million.For minor league contracts, the fee will be 25% of the signing bonus. MORE:Starting next offseason, the posting period will be shortened to Nov. 1 through Dec. 5. Under the previous agreement, the time period was Nov. 1 through March 1.As part of negotiations this week, NPB dropped its stance that a Japanese team be able to withdraw a posting before the process is complete.The players’ association wanted that provision eliminated and also desired the shorter posting period. The union believes Japanese free agents entering the market late potentially could impact negotiations with major league free agents.Ohtani is the reigning Pacific League MVP and was 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA this year for the Fighters, limited because of thigh and ankle Continue Reading

MLB’s posting system could delay Shohei Ohtani’s dream

ORLANDO -- There’s no reason for panic, no need for name-calling, and it’s not necessary to cancel those flight reservations to Japan.Shohei Ohtani is coming to Major League Baseball, and will be the sport’s hottest new star, no matter how much drama the players union wants to create.The players union set a Monday deadline to work out an agreement with Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League, threatening that if no deal is reached, Ohtani will be staying in Japan for another year. MORE ON MLB Nightengale: MLB teams 'fascinated' with Ohtani Mariners trade opens pursuit for Ohtani The union’s concern is legitimate. They hate the idea that while Ohtani can’t receive larger than a $3.5 million signing bonus, under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, his former team, the Nippon Ham Fighters can receive $20 million.While Ohtani, 23, certainly deserves to be an unrestricted free agent, and would earn at least a $200 million contract according to executives at the Major League Baseball meetings, these are the rules. He can’t receive more than any team’s allotted international signing pool since he’s under the age of 25, and the Texas Rangers have the most to spend at $3.55 million.Yet, if Ohtani doesn’t care, and understands the financial sacrifice he’s making now -- legally represented by veteran player agent Nez Balelo of the Creative Artists Agency -- why should the union or anyone else try to stop him?The Major League Players Association just needs to provide its blessing.“I hope it’s resolved,’’ Manfred said. “We reached an agreement with the NPB, and I’m hopeful the union will find a way to get on board and we’ll open that player market up and let players who want to play here see if they can signed.“I think the remaining issues should be resolved. We’re satisfied with the way the discussions went with the NPB. We think we reached Continue Reading

Shohei Ohtani: Mariners make trade, raise available money for Japan’s two-way star

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Ohtani.They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.Ohtani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract. MORE MLB NEWS Nightengale: MLB teams 'fascinated' by Ohtani MLB working on new Japan posting deal Gallery: Ohtani: Japan's 'Babe Ruth' of baseball Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Continue Reading

Shohei Ohtani tops fantasy baseball’s most intriguing players for 2018

With the hot stove just starting to warm up, many fantasy baseball owners are already looking ahead to next season.This is always one of my favorite columns to write, when I get to pick out the most intriguing player from each major league team. However, this time it’s different. The most intriguing player for next season isn’t in the majors right now.Shohei Ohtani is known as the Japanese Babe Ruth because he can touch 100 mph with his fastball and 400 feet with his home runs. He missed about half of this season with an injury, but last year with the Nippon Ham Fighters he posted a 1.86 ERA and struck out 174 batters in 140 innings. He also hit .322 with a .416 on-base percentage and .588 slugging percentage with 22 home runs in 323 at-bats.Ohtani is expected to be cleared soon to begin his dream of playing in the majors. At age 23, there will be intense interest in acquiring his services.The most intriguing part of his courtship this winter is that he doesn’t want to choose between pitching and hitting — and the MLB teams willing to allow him to do both could very well be the front-runners to sign him.From a fantasy standpoint, Ohtani presents a sticky situation. What if he lands with an American League team, serving as the designated hitter on days when he doesn’t start on the mound? Will his stats count in both fantasy hitting and pitching categories? If so, should he count for one or two roster spots?Throughout the Rotisserie Era, it’s been pretty clear which skill was more dominant among other two-way players.Micah Owings was a pitcher who occasionally hit. Rick Ankiel was a pitcher first, then exclusively a hitter.Ohtani could be the first true two-way player in the majors since Ruth. Now that’s intriguing.The rest of our list (with stats updated from when originally published on Sept. 19): AMERICAN LEAGUEBaltimore: SS Tim Beckham. Maybe all he needed was a change of scenery, but the former No. 1 overall Continue Reading

Shohei Ohtani: MLB hopes for new Japan posting deal by early December

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Major League Baseball hopes to put in place a new posting system agreement with Japan by early December, a deal that would allow star pitcher-outfielder Shohei Otani to start negotiations with big league teams.MLB Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem said a new framework has been agreed to with Nippon Professional Baseball and has been given to the Major League Baseball Players Association for its approval."I'm hopeful that we can wrap up our discussions with the union soon, maybe within a week," he said Wednesday at the general managers' meetings.After that, MLB owners would hold a conference call for an approval vote."I'm hopeful that we'll have a new system in place in which players can be posted by the NPB in early December," he said.Otani, a 23-year-old with the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters, would be restricted to a minor league contract with a maximum signing bonus of $3,535,000, with each team having different amounts to spend. GM MEETINGS Japanese star Ohtani has MLB 'fascinated' Jeter confirms Stanton trade rumors Speeding up games on MLB agenda Halem also hopes to have a separate deal with the players' association by mid-January on pace-of-play changes such as a pitch clock, limits on mound visits. Baseball also is considering split screens to allow commercials on broadcasts as half-innings start."Proposals have been exchanged and in-person meetings have taken place," he said. "I would characterize those discussions as being in the beginning. We have a ways to go. In terms of the calendar, I think we would need to complete those discussions by mid-January in order to effectively roll them out and explain them to umpires and our clubs."Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 in the postseason.Owners have the right for next season to unilaterally institute a 20-second pitch clock and limit a catcher to one mound visit per pitcher each inning, but baseball Continue Reading

From 7,000 miles away, Shohei Ohtani – Japan’s Babe Ruth – has MLB teams dreaming big

ORLANDO - He’s here, but he’s not here.You can visualize him, but you can’t see him.Shohei Ohtani, 23, the most fascinating man in baseball, is 7,000 miles away from baseball’s general manager meetings, but he’s on everyone’s mind, dominating all of the talk at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando.“I can’t remember anybody coming in,’’ New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson said, “creating this kind of interest. It will be fascinating to see what happens.’’Ohtani, 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, called a hybrid of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry by one GM, is coveted by all 30 major league teams - and thanks to rare financial circumstances, all can actually fathom fitting him into their budget.  Once he’s officially posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters, which should happen sometime before the end of the year, he’ll instantly become baseball’s most prized free agent.“He has that allure, it grabs your attention,’’ says Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, who has personally scouted him in Japan. “When you see a guy hit a ball 500 feet, and throw a ball 100-mph, it’s a pretty unique skillset. And he can run, too.“This guy is so talented, it’s a joke.’’MORE MLB Bobby Doerr passes away at 99 MLB free agents: The top 73 available Giancarlo Stanton: What's fact, what's fantasyHe’s capable of winning 20 games as a starting pitcher, hitting 30 home runs as an outfielder, and becoming Major League Baseball’s greatest marketing tool since Bo Jackson.“Everybody in baseball understands that he’s a talented player,’’ Angels GM Billy Eppler says, “but because he hasn’t trekked through the minor leagues and hasn’t garnered the social media and prospect attention, there’s uncertainty.“And that uncertainty breeds intrigue.’’One that has mesmerized the entire Continue Reading