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The Shohei Ohtani clock has officially started

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MLB teams have until 8:59 p.m. PT on Dec. 22 to sign the Japanese star

Netherlands v Japan - International Friendly Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball agreed on a new posting agreement on Friday, but most importantly the clock has officially started on the recruitment of Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani.

The Nippon Ham Fighters officially posted Ohtani on Friday, with all 30 major league clubs having until 8:59 p.m. PT on Dec. 22 to sign the 23-year-old pitching and hitting star.

It may or may not take all three weeks to get a deal done — unless something was lost in Google translation — with Nikkan Sports reporting the possibility of an early sign is high, and Ohtani not wanting to (further) disrupt the free agent market. The same report says the Dodgers, Yankees and Padres are three of five teams in Ohtani’s reported narrowed window.

The team that signs Ohtani will owe a $20 million posting fee to the Fighters.

The most the Dodgers can offer Ohtani is a $300,000 signing bonus, one of several teams handcuffed during this international signing period. The most any team can offer is $3.535 million by the Rangers. Taking the long view, the difference between the maximum and minimum bonuses Ohtani can initially receive is negligible, especially for someone sacrificing tens of millions of dollars by coming to the United States now, rather than in two years when he would be a true free agent commanding a nine-figure contract.

Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, sent a memo last weekend to MLB teams asking to make their pitch to his client. The questions asked in that memo weren’t financial, but rather to evaluate Ohtani and sell him on the organization, their facilities, their philosophies and their city.

This is much more like a college recruitment than any other free agent in recent memory, and will make the next three weeks fascinating to follow.

The Dodgers are certainly interested. Andrew Friedman in November explained the allure and rarity of a player who could potentially both pitch and hit at a high level.

“It takes being a little creative in trying to figure out a schedule and figure out recovery days. But we definitely think it is doable,” Friedman said. “If we were ever to sign a player who is talented enough to do both, we look forward to the challenge of being creative to figure that out.”

Now, we wait to see if the Dodgers will be presented with that challenge.

The other guy

In addition to Ohtani, the other Japanese player who will be posted at some point is Kazuhisa Makita, a 33-year-old right-hander who had a 1.91 ERA over the last two seasons in relief with the Seibu Lions after five years as a starter. Seibu will post Makita on or before Dec. 31.

New posting agreement

Beginning next offseason, there is a new posting agreement for players coming from NPB to MLB. Starting Nov. 1, 2018, and running through Oct. 31, 2021, here are the posting rules for the next three years:

Players must be posted between Nov. 1 and Dec. 5 each year.

Once posted, a player has 30 days to sign with a major league team.

The release fee paid by the MLB team that signs the player, to the NPB team, for major league contracts depends on the total guaranteed money in the deal:

20% of the first $20 million
17.5% of the amount between $20 and $50 million
15% of the amount above $50 million

Plus 15% of any bonuses, salary escalators or options exercised

For minor league contracts, the fee is 25% of the signing bonus. For “foreign professionals” (players 25 or older, with six years of experience) who sign minor league deals with major league provisions, an extra release fee will be owed once the player is added to the 25-man roster.