Shohei Otani wants to play in the United States. The 18-year-old Japanese right-hander was picked first in his country’s draft by the Nippon Ham Fighters last week.
That doesn’t change his mind, he said. He wants to play in the United States.
The Orioles have been linked with Otani as have Texas, Boston and Los Angeles.
Since Hideo Nomo came to the U.S. in 1995, it’s mostly been established players who’ve moved to America.
Nomo and Daisuke Matsuzaka were both 26 when they debuted in the U.S. Ichiro Suzuki was 27, Hideki Matsui 29. Last year, Texas signed Yu Darvish, who was 25.
For 2012, The Orioles signed Tsuyoshi Wada, who was 31 and 26-year-old Wei-Yin Chen, a Taiwanese native, who played four years in Japan.
Japanese baseball officials have banned high school players such as Otani from returning to their native country to play for three years even if Otani was unsuccessful or unhappy in the U.S. For college or corporate signees, the restriction is two years.
The rule was put into effect when Junichi Tawaza, who played on a corporate team, signed with Boston in 2010.
The rule isn’t working, and Japanese baseball officials are looking at alternatives.
“[Otani] has a pure dream to play in the majors and it's pointless trying to hold him back with rules," Hiroshima Carp executive Kiyoaki Suzuki said last week.
On Monday, the Cleveland Indians signed Takuya Tsuchida, an 18-year-old Japanese high school outfielder.
The Orioles seem unlikely to get into a bidding war over Otani. Dan Duquette, their executive vice president of baseball operations prefers undervalued international players.