LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are not commenting on efforts to sign Japanese high school pitcher Shohei Otani, a strong indicator that he's the main target in the club's renewed commitment to mine international talent.
The 18-year-old right-hander has reportedly met with the Dodgers, Red Sox and Rangers, all three clubs having signed Japanese pitchers in the past (Hideo Nomo, Hiroki Kuroda, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish among them).
The big difference in Otani is that, because he's never played in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, he is a true free agent and not subject to the potentially costly posting system that requires Major League clubs to compensate their NPB counterparts in exchange for the player.
Otani is 6-foot-4 with a fastball in the high-90s. He was expected to be a first-round pick in the Japanese Draft on Thursday, but told reporters in Japan he wants to play in the Major Leagues.
"I think I will start in the Minor Leagues but I want to challenge in the Majors," he was quoted by The Associated Press. "It's been my dream since entering high school."
Under new signing guidelines, clubs have $2.9 million this year for international contracts. There are significant financial penalties, as well as future signing limitations, if a club exceeds that total.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com.