Japanese star Otani announces desire to move to MLB

FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2016, file photo, Japan's designated hitter Shohei Otani reacts after hitting a solo home run off Netherlands' starter Jair Jurrjens in the fifth inning of their international exhibition series baseball game at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. Texas, the New York Yankees and Minnesota can pay the most to an international 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. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)

Koji Sasahara

OSAKA, Japan (AP) — Highly touted Japanese pitcher-outfielder Shohei Otani will be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters, allowing him to sign with a major league team next season.

"Everyone in our ballclub accepts his thoughts," Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama said on Friday. "It's not just me but everyone in our organization believes in what he can do."

Otani is the reigning Pacific League MVP and was 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA this year. Despite thigh and ankle injuries, he batted .332 in 65 games with 16 doubles, eight homers and 31 RBIs. He had ankle surgery last month.

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.

Otani is scheduled to hold a news conference Saturday in Tokyo.

Because Otani has less than nine years of service time, Nippon Ham retains his rights and he must go through the posting system to leave.

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If Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association and Nippon Professional Baseball agree to a deal that would extend the expired posting agreement through this offseason, the team that Otani signs with would pay the Fighters $20 million. Under MLB's labor contract, his signing bonus is restricted and remaining pool money is limited to a high of $3,535,000.

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