The Nippon Ham Fighters said Friday they will allow slugging ace Shohei Otani to use the posting system this offseason to try to land a deal with a major league team.
"Everyone in our ballclub accepts his thoughts," Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama told a press conference at a Tokyo hotel concerning the 23-year-old two-way player's intention to move to the big leagues.
The right-hander is scheduled to hold a separate news conference Saturday in the Japanese capital.
Otani, who had ankle surgery last month and is currently going through rehabilitation, just completed his fifth season with the Sapporo-based Fighters, who had told him during contract renewal negotiations last December that they are willing to approve the use of the system.
Fighters president Kenso Takeda said he hopes Otani, who in 2016 helped his team win the Japan Series and was voted the Pacific League's MVP as well as its top pitcher and designated hitter, will play both as a pitcher and batter in the majors as well.
Otani met with Kuriyama and team officials in Tokyo for about half an hour Friday and told them he wants to take up the challenge of playing in the majors and becoming the world No. 1 team, according to Takeda.
Nippon Professional Baseball and Major League Baseball are negotiating revising the old posting system which expired Oct. 31, but the Associated Press reported earlier this week that the two sides have reached a tentative understanding to maintain the scheme.
The posting system allows NPB players, who do not have the requisite nine years of professional experience to gain international free agency, to be put up for bidding by MLB teams.
Nippon Ham plans to take the necessary steps to post Otani after the new posting system comes into effect.
"It's not just me, but everyone in the ballclub believed in what he can do," Kuriyama said, looking back on Otani's five-year career in Japan. "I never lost doubt and I was sure he can do it. I spent the past five years just believing in that."
When the Fighters selected him in the first round of the amateur draft in October 2012, they convinced Otani, then a senior at Hanamaki Higashi High School in Iwate Prefecture, that he should gain experience in NPB before making his debut as a major league player.
At the time, Nippon Ham was said to have wooed Otani into signing by explaining to him their plans to help him develop into a two-way player, in order to prevent him from jumping directly from high school to American baseball.
Under the old posting rules, any MLB team interested in a posted Japanese player could offer up to $20 million for the right to negotiate with the player, with only the team that signs the player transferring the fee to the NPB team.
Because he is under 25 and treated like an amateur, Otani has to sign a minor league contract subject to signing bonus pools to enter MLB under baseball's new collective bargaining agreement.
Otani has a 42-15 career record with an ERA of 2.52 as a hurler and a batting average of .286 with 296 hits, including 48 home runs, and 166 RBIs as a hitter.