Shohei Otani is a step closer to the major leagues and, as a result, perhaps a step closer to the Bronx.
The much-heralded Japanese two-way star, coveted by more than a few teams in the majors, including the Yankees, will be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters this offseason, according to an overnight report by Kyodo News.
According to the report, Otani is scheduled to hold a news conference Saturday in Tokyo.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made a special trip in late August to see the 23-year-old Otani, a hard-throwing righthanded pitcher and lefthanded-hitting outfielder, in person.
The Yankees, who have scouted Otani since his high school days, are among the favorites to sign him, along with the Rangers, Dodgers and Red Sox.
“Tremendous pitcher and he’s a better hitter than a pitcher,” said one Pacific Rim talent evaluator. “Power to all fields and an impact bat at the top of the order.”
Otani, the reigning Pacific League MVP, is 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and 624 strikeouts in 543 innings over five seasons. He has a .286/.358/.500 slash line with 48 homers and 166 RBIs in 403 games and 1,035 at-bats in the same time frame.
Otani, who battled ankle and thigh injuries this season, went 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA. He hit .332 with eight homers, 16 doubles and 31 RBIs in 202 at-bats.
As a result of changes in the collective-bargaining agreement, the Yankees won’t be able to outspend other interested teams as they did when they signed Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155-million deal before the 2014 season.
Because Otani is an international free agent under the age of 25, teams are limited in what they can spend on him and can utilize only what they have in international bonus pool money.
According to figures obtained by The Associated Press, the Rangers can offer the most out of their international signing bonus pool, just over $3.5 million, followed by the Yankees ($3.25 million) and the Twins (just over $3.2 million).