Japanese star Shohei Otani is bound to be one of the most coveted international stars on the free-agent market. The only question is when the 22-year-old will decide to make the leap to MLB.

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Latest on Otani, Potential Impact of New CBA

Thursday, Dec. 1

On Wednesday, MLB announced (via Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith) it has tentatively reached an agreement with the players’ union on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan noted the new CBA could have a direct impact on foreign stars such as Otani:

Following up, Passan spoke to sources who indicated the CBA could be amended to get Otani and others into the league before they turn 25.

There are ways it could happen,” an anonymous MLB official said, per Passan. “I don’t think there is any reason if an international superstar wants to play here we stop it.”

The New York Post‘s Joel Sherman talked to another person involved in the CBA discussion who echoed a similar sentiment: “When the interests of all five parties [the player, Nippon Professional Baseball, MLB, the MLB club and MLBPA] are aligned, things get worked out.”

In 21 games for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Otani went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA this season. He averaged 11.2 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Otani also had 22 home runs and 67 RBI along with a .322/.416/.588 slash line in 382 plate appearances.

Some MLB players got a firsthand look at Otani during the 2014 MLB Japan All-Star Series, which featured MLB and NPB stars.

Altering the CBA rules to incentivize Otani’s stateside arrival before his age-25 season makes sense. By arriving in MLB at an earlier age, he’d have an additional year or two to adjust to playing in a new country before entering the prime of his playing career.

An athlete has a small window of peak earning power, so it also doesn’t make sense to financially handicap top international talent.

Otani’s inevitable free agency will be a good test of the new CBA’s flexibility.

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