Major League Baseball approves Japan deal, allowing Ohtani bidding to start

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Major League Baseball took a formal step toward welcoming a distinctive new star on Friday, ratifying a posting agreement that frees its teams to court Shohei Ohtani, a pitching and hitting sensation who is leaving Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League. It was expected after a tentative agreement was reached last week.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi reports that executives around baseball believe Ohtani would rather sign with a team that does not now have a Japanese player on it. As a result, Ohtani will still be subject to the previous agreement, established in 2013, in which a team must give $20 million to the player's Japanese team, which in the case of Ohtani is the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Let the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes begin. Ohtani, 23, can now negotiate with major league teams through December 22. Considering the relatively nominal cost, seemingly every team could be in competition for Ohtani's services, especially because he can only receive a maximum bonus of $3.5 million. Under the previous agreement, the time period was November 1 through March 1. The Texas Rangers now have the most money in their pool at $3.55 million followed by the New York Yankees at $3.5 million.

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Ohtani was the 2016 Pacific League MVP and was 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA this year for the Fighters, limited because of thigh and ankle injuries.

A right-hander, Otani 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.

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