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Peter Abraham

Red Sox interested in Shohei Ohtani, but deal could be complicated

Shohei Otani, 23, was a star pitcher and hitter in Japan.
Shohei Otani, 23, was a star pitcher and hitter in Japan. Toru Takahashi/Associated Pres

The Red Sox paid what it took to land Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006, spending $51.1 million for his rights and another $52 million to sign the righthander to a contract. The team also promised to hire what was essentially a personal staff for the Japanese ace.

The pursuit of Shohei Ohtani will be much less expensive but potentially far more complicated.

Every team in the majors, at least for now, has a chance at the 23-year-old righthanded pitcher and lefthanded slugger. The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan’s Pacific League posted Ohtani on Friday.

Under the rules agreed to by MLB and the Players Association, Ohtani has until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 22 to make a deal. The team that signs him will pay the Fighters $20 million.

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But because Ohtani is 23, he is subject to international bonus restrictions and teams are limited in what they can offer him. Foreign players do not become eligible for major league contracts until they are 25 and have six years of professional experience.

Ohtani’s signing bonus will not exceed the $3.53 million available from the Texas Rangers. The Yankees are just behind at $3.50 million. Four other clubs have at least $1.57 million available. The Red Sox have $462,000.

Ohtani will be signed at first to a minor league contract. Once he is promoted to the major league roster, he will be paid the major league minimum of $545,000.

But money may not be a deciding factor in the decision.

Ohtani could have waited two years and been free of financial restrictions, but was eager to get his MLB career started. His agent, Nez Balelo of CAA, sent a questionnaire to teams last month asking for details about how they could use Ohtani and to explain to him further their player development philosophies and what would make them a desirable selection.

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Ohtani is a premier pitching prospect who also played outfield and was a DH in Japan. He regularly played four days a week in Japan and hopes for some approximation of that in the majors.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told the Globe on Wednesday that the team was interested in Ohtani, but limited his comments to that.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman spoke more specifically Friday.

“It’s a big stage here and it’s meant to have the best talent to play on it,” Cashman told reporters at a charity event in Connecticut. “Ohtani represents the next great talent that is available in the world of baseball. This stage is made for players like this, and that’s why we are certainly going to be aggressive in this process.”

The Mariners, Angels, and Rangers have made their interest clear.

The Associated Press reported that Ohtani was in Los Angeles. It is expected he will narrow the field and soon start the process of meeting with teams in person.

Righthanded reliever Kazuhisa Makita, 33, was posted by the Seibu Lions and also is available.

Next year, the posting fees will be based on the size of a player’s contract. The process will last from Nov. 1-Dec. 5.

.   .   .

The Red Sox officially offered contracts to 34 unsigned players Friday. The group included arbitration-eligible Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt, Joe Kelly, Sandy Leon, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg, Christian Vazquez, Brandon Workman, and Steven Wright.

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Unless other terms are reached, those players will be signed to one-year contracts. If needed, an arbitration panel would determine the salary.


Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.