M.L.B. Bars Former Braves Executive in Signings Scandal

John Coppolella spoke confidently in August about the future of the Atlanta Braves and the efforts of their front office to resurrect the sagging franchise.

“You do this to win a long time,” Coppolella, the Braves’ general manager at the time, said in an interview at Atlanta’s SunTrust Park. “For us, we’re the top-ranked system, and it’s not even close.”

As it turned out, however, some of the players in that farm system were acquired in violation of Major League Baseball’s rules, and on Tuesday Coppolella paid the price. M.L.B. barred Coppolella for life for violating international signing rules and declared 13 Braves prospects to be free agents. The players the Braves lost included Kevin Maitan, a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop who signed in July 2016 for $4.25 million.

Baseball allows teams a specified bonus pool amount to spend on international amateurs. If a team exceeds its figure by more than 5 percent, it cannot sign any player for more than $300,000 for the next two years. An M.L.B. investigation found that the Braves had effectively underreported their signings from the 2015-16 period by inflating the bonus of a lesser prospect who was not subject to the bonus-pool rules. They then funneled much of his money to the better prospects who had signed within the rules.

That allowed the Braves to remain eligible for lavish spending on the 2016-17 market, when they signed Maitan and other elite amateurs. Restricted to the $300,000 limit for signings for the current 2017-18 period, the Braves nonetheless signed Brandol Mezquita, Angel Rojas and Antonio Sucre for more than that by giving money to them from the bonuses of lesser prospects.

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The Braves were said to have been especially brazen in such practices for years. In September, they signed a coveted shortstop from South Korea, Ji-Hwan Bae, for the $300,000 minimum, with a side agreement to pay him an extra $600,000. Mezquita, Rojas, Sucre and Bae were among the 13 players declared free agents on Tuesday, though Bae’s contract had not become effective.

Baseball also penalized the Braves well into the future, prohibiting them from signing any international players for more than $10,000 in 2020 and slashing their bonus pool by half in 2021. They will not have a full international bonus allotment until 2022.

The Braves also forfeited their third-round draft pick in 2018 for offering a car to a 2017 draft choice, an effort to persuade him to sign for a lower bonus.

In a statement, Commissioner Rob Manfred said he was confident the Braves’ leadership would “put in place procedures to ensure that this type of conduct never occurs again.”

Coppolella, 38, resigned last month as baseball began its investigation. A special assistant, Gordon Blakeley, also resigned; he was suspended for one year on Tuesday. Coppolella and Blakely worked together for the Yankees in Tampa, Fla., in the early 2000s.

The Braves hired Alex Anthopoulos, a former Toronto Blue Jays general manager, to replace Coppolella last week. John Hart, the veteran executive who had outranked Coppolella as president of baseball operations, was not implicated in the scandal but resigned on Friday.

Coppolella, who did not respond to a request for comment, became the fourth living person on baseball’s permanently ineligible list, joining Pete Rose, Jenrry Mejia and Chris Correa.

Rose, the career hits leader, was banished in 1989 for betting on his own team as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Mejia, a former Mets reliever, failed three steroid tests and was barred in 2016. Correa, the former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director, was punished in January for hacking into the Houston Astros’ database.

The Braves, who reached the postseason 17 times between 1991 and 2013, have lost at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons. Besides Maitan, Mezquita, Rojas, Sucre and Bae, they lost the following players on Tuesday: Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario, Abraham Gutierrez, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Pena, Yunior Severino, Livan Soto and Guillermo Zuniga.

Do Lefties Have an Advantage in Sports? It Depends

Violins, cameras, school desks, computer mouses, can openers — these are just a few items that demonstrate how routinely disadvantaged left-handers are in this world.

One notable exception may be sports. Whether it’s Lou Gehrig in baseball, Wayne Gretzky in ice hockey, Martina Navratilova in tennis or Oscar De La Hoya in boxing, some of the best athletes in history have been portsiders.

But even in this realm, the southpaw advantage may vary, being more pronounced in sports where a player has less time to react to an opponent, like table tennis, according to Florian Loffing, a sports scientist at the University of Oldenburg in Germany and author of a study published Wednesday in Biology Letters. In such games, he found a higher proportion of lefties than in those with longer intervals between players’ actions.

Including an analysis of the pressures of time shows “that there is an additional effect” in left-sider sports dynamics, said Kirsten Legerlotz, a professor of sport sciences at the Humboldt University of Berlin who was not involved in the research. Dr. Loffing’s “conclusion appears convincing,” she added, although it would need to be examined in other sports and verified with lab experiments.

Dr. Loffing chose to analyze baseball, cricket, table tennis, badminton, tennis and squash, because they lent themselves to a standardized measure of time pressure, he said. For baseball and cricket, this involved the average time that elapsed between ball release and bat-ball contact in professional games. For the racket sports, he considered the intervals between racket-ball contact made by players in professional matches. He then tallied the number of lefties among each sport’s top 100 players, or pitchers and bowlers in the case of baseball and cricket, from 2009 to 2014.

Comparing all six sports against one another, he found the proportion of southpaws increased as the time available for players to act decreased. Nine percent of the top players were left-dominant in the slowest contest, squash, while 30 percent of the best pitchers were lefties in the fastest, baseball. Over all, left-handedness was 2.6 times more likely in the sports with higher time constraints (baseball, cricket and table tennis) than in ones with lower time pressure (badminton, tennis and squash).

His results are couched in a broader “nature” versus “nurture” discussion of why left-dominance may be an asset in sports.

The “nature” hypothesis posits that left-handers may innately be better athletes, perhaps benefiting, for instance, from the fact that the right brain hemisphere is in charge of both their dominant hand and visual-spatial awareness.

The “nurture” explanation suggests that left-handers’ relative rarity gives them a competitive edge because opponents are worse at anticipating their movements or are even used to employing strategies that play directly to lefties’ strengths (hitting balls toward the right in racket sports, for instance).

This “nurture” idea is supported by studies that have found a higher incidence of left-handers in professional interactive sports compared with the general population, but not in non-interactive ones like darts, bowling or golf.

Beyond sports, this explanation could account for why lefties have made up just 10 percent or so of the human population for thousands of years.

“From a Darwinian perspective, there seems to be something wrong with being left-handed,” Dr. Loffing said. “But the question is, why doesn’t it wash out? Why isn’t the world only right-handed?”

In 1996, a team of French researchers proposed that lefties have a fitness advantage in duel-like situations. The same group showed that more violent and warlike traditional societies have a much higher incidence of left-handers than more pacifist societies.

Dr. Loffing believes most of the lefties-in-sports trend can be explained by this so-called fighting hypothesis. His latest research suggests that the benefits portsiders derive from the element of unfamiliarity become greater when their opponents have less time to calculate. “We know that things like anticipation and decision-making are more difficult under time pressure,” he said.

In previous studies, Dr. Loffing and collaborators have shown that athletes can counter or even neutralize the left-sider advantage through training. Next, it would be interesting to combine these two findings and see if there is some time pressure threshold beyond which it would be exceedingly difficult for players to train against the southpaw edge — some threshold “beyond which being rare really pays off,” he said.

On Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot, Steroid Talk and Few Sure Things

oe Morgan sent a letter to Hall of Fame voters this week urging them not to elect steroid users to Cooperstown. By doing so, Morgan, a Hall of Fame second baseman, thrust the issue of performance-enhancing drugs back to the forefront of the Cooperstown conversation.

Once again, superstars under chemical clouds — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa — will appear on the ballots sent this week to voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. But there are also 19 new candidates to consider, none with strong ties to the scourge of their era.

Plenty of other holdover candidates remain on the ballot, too, including seven who got at least half the 75 percent of votes needed for election last winter: Trevor Hoffman (74 percent), Vladimir Guerrero (71.7), Edgar Martinez (58.6), Clemens (54.1), Bonds (53.8), Mike Mussina (51.8) and Curt Schilling (45).

Most of the newcomers will slip off the ballot after one try; candidates must receive 5 percent of the vote to remain. Before they depart, here’s a memory or insight for each newcomer to the voting.

Chris Carpenter

There was no in-between with Carpenter across his time with the St. Louis Cardinals from 2003 to 2012: he was either awesome or injured. In four of those seasons, Carpenter didn’t win a game. In the other six, he was 50 games over .500 with a Cy Young Award and two World Series championships.

Johnny Damon

Let’s bundle some stats to make the effervescent Damon as appealing a candidate as possible. He had 2,769 hits, 235 homers and 408 steals. How many players in history exceed him in all three categories? Only Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson and Craig Biggio. Few players could beat you as many ways as Damon could, and even fewer had as much fun doing it.

Livan Hernandez

Before Yu Darvish, there was Livan Hernandez. Like Darvish, who was flattened twice by Houston in the World Series for the Dodgers, Hernandez also was thumped in two outings in the same Series, Games 3 and 7 as a Giant in 2002. For the Hernandez family, though, it might have just been an Angels thing. Livan and his half brother, the ex-Yankee Orlando Hernandez, were 0-3 in their postseason careers against the Angels but 16-3 against everyone else.

Orlando Hudson

For a few years, the Hall of Fame had an awkward habit of reaching for nicknames to put on plaques. Joseph Paul Torre is called “Joe” under his full name, while Joseph Paul DiMaggio is not. Likewise, James Edward Rice is called “Jim,” while James Alvin Palmer is not. Anyway, Hudson, a second baseman who won Gold Gloves for three teams, will probably not get a single vote for Cooperstown. But it would be cool to see a real baseball nickname — “O-Dog” — etched in bronze.

Aubrey Huff

In 1983, when Huff was 6, his father was shot to death in a dispute at the apartment complex where he worked as an electrician. A man had shot his wife and tried to shoot the apartment manager. Huff’s father pushed the manager out of the way and was killed. Huff’s mother, Fonda, raised him and his sister in Mineral Wells, Tex., while working in the meat department of a grocery store and studying to be a teacher. “I told my mom one day I wanted to be a professional baseball player — probably, what, 8 years old, 9 years old,” Huff said. “And she bought me a batting cage on a Winn-Dixie salary.” Huff was speaking in Arlington, Tex., some 60 miles from Mineral Wells, after hitting a homer for the Giants in the 2010 World Series.

Jason Isringhausen

With Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson, Isringhausen was part of Generation K, the much-hyped trio of young starters who gave hope to Mets fans in the desolate mid-1990s. All three pitchers were largely undone by injuries, but Isringhausen remade himself as a closer and collected 300 saves, though only eight for the Mets. In the end, Generation K combined for 1,651 strikeouts — exactly the career total of Vic Willis, a turn-of-the-century right-hander for the Boston Beaneaters. It took 85 years after his final game, but Willis finally made it to Cooperstown in 1995.

Andruw Jones

Like Dale Murphy in the 1980s, Jones starred in center field while playing for the Braves in his 20s. Also like Murphy, Jones plunged sharply around age 31 and never recovered. He never had 300 at-bats in a season after turning 31, which was Murphy’s age in 1987, his last year as an elite player. Murphy wound up with an .815 on-base plus slugging percentage, five Gold Gloves and two M.V.P. awards. Jones finished with a .823 O.P.S., 10 Gold Gloves and no M.V.P. awards. The writers never gave Murphy more than 23.2 percent of the vote.

Chipper Jones

It is true that Jones, a Mets nemesis, named his son Shea. It is also true that he bought two seats from Shea Stadium and put them in the boy’s bedroom. But how did Jones really do at the Mets’ old ballpark? He hit .313 with 19 home runs, his most in any visiting stadium, and then added three homers at Citi Field. Impressive, for sure, but Jones actually did even more damage in Philadelphia: he hit .350 with 13 home runs at Veterans Stadium, and connected 11 more times at Citizens Bank Park.

Carlos Lee

Just a few whiff-crazy years since his retirement, it’s striking to see a career like Lee’s: in 14 seasons as a power hitter, he never struck out 100 times. That’s the kind of steady, forceful contact we see from few sluggers besides Albert Pujols, who led the majors in runs batted in from 2002 through 2009, when Lee was in his prime. Lee ranks fifth in R.B.I. in those seasons, with 843, trailing only Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz and Mark Teixeira. He shouldn’t get a Hall of Fame vote, but he was a much better hitter than we probably remember.

Brad Lidge

The Phillies have won two World Series. In the first, a lefty closer wearing No. 45 struck out a righty hitter for the final out. In the second, a righty closer wearing No. 54 struck out a lefty hitter for the final out. Even the years were reversed: ’80 for the first title, ’08 for the second. Tug McGraw, the 1980 pitcher, later worked on local TV for WPVI in Philadelphia. Lidge, the 2008 pitcher, has a national radio gig for SiriusXM.

Hideki Matsui

When Matsui joined the Yankees in 2003, he took all the beat writers out to dinner during spring training in Tampa, Fla. None of us could remember another player ever doing something like this. The next spring the writers took Matsui to dinner, and we continued the tradition, alternating each year. As a superstar in Japan, Matsui was in constant demand for interviews in two languages, yet he was readily available to all, with grace and good humor. There is no cheering in the press box, but when Matsui finished his Yankees career as M.V.P. of the 2009 World Series, you had to be happy for him.

Kevin Millwood

Can you name Millwood’s team for each of these career accomplishments? (The answers are below.)

a) One-hitter and save in same postseason series (1999)

b) Complete-game no-hitter (2003)

c) League leader in E.R.A. (2005)

d) Signed $60 million contract (2006)

e) Led league in losses (2010)

f) Started a combined no-hitter (2012)

Jamie Moyer

The last batter Moyer ever faced, Jay Bruce, had not been born when Moyer made his major-league debut for the Cubs in 1986. Moyer lasted through 2012, the year he turned 50, baiting hitters with some of the softest stuff in the game. What’s the fastest pitch he ever threw? “One game in Houston when I was with the Phillies, I popped an 86,” Moyer said. “How did that happen? It had to be a misread, because when I went to the dugout, three or four pitchers were like: ‘How did you do that? You threw 86!’ But I don’t know, really. The gun, for me, here’s where I got the most use out of it: to see where I was with my fastball and where I was with my changeup. What’s the variance of speed? That was important to me, and what does the swing look like to that pitch?”

Scott Rolen

On Sept. 7, 1996, Rolen came to bat in the fourth inning with two outs against the Cubs’ Steve Trachsel. If Rolen put the ball in play or struck out, he would be credited with his 131st at-bat and lose his rookie status. Instead, an errant pitch broke the ulna bone in Rolen’s right arm, abruptly ending his season. The next year he was the unanimous National League Rookie of the Year, the only Phillies winner between Dick Allen in 1964 and Ryan Howard in 2005. Rolen would go on to win eight Gold Glove Awards, make seven All-Star teams and help St. Louis win the 2006 World Series.

Johan Santana

The Minnesota Twins picked first at the 1999 Rule 5 draft in Anaheim, Calif. The cost to draft a player was $50,000, but the Twins found a way to get their target for free. The Marlins, who picked second, wanted a pitcher named Jared Camp. The Twins wanted a pitcher named Johan Santana. So the Twins took Camp, the Marlins took Santana, and then the teams swapped those players, with the Marlins kicking in $50,000 to cover Minnesota’s fee. Camp never pitched in the majors and was out of pro ball within three years. Santana won two Cy Young Awards for the Twins and threw the only no-hitter in Mets history.

Jim Thome

In the spring of 1989, when “Major League” was released in theaters, the Cleveland Indians’ draft was just a bit outside the norm. Their first-round choice, an outfielder named Calvin Murray, rejected them for the University of Texas. Their third-round choice, pitcher Jerry Dipoto, is now general manager of the Seattle Mariners. Two pitchers — Alan Embree (fifth round) and Curtis Leskanic (eighth round) — would help the Boston Red Sox win a World Series title in 2004. Outfielder Brian Giles (17th round) became an All-Star slugger for the Pittsburgh Pirates. But one player would go on to do so much in Cleveland that he now has a statue at the Indians’ ballpark: Thome, a 13th-rounder from Illinois Central College. He is the Indians’ franchise home run leader, with 337 of the 612 he smashed across 22 major league seasons.

Omar Vizquel

No shortstop has ever matched Vizquel’s longevity; his 2,709 games at the position rank first on the career list. The other leaders in games played at each infield position are catcher Ivan Rodriguez, first baseman Eddie Murray, second baseman Eddie Collins and third baseman Brooks Robinson. Among outfielders (since 1913), the games-played leaders are left fielder Barry Bonds, center fielder Willie Mays and right fielder Roberto Clemente. That’s quite a team, and all except Bonds are in the Hall of Fame.

Kerry Wood

It’s nice that Wood makes the ballot, because his career is too easily viewed for what it wasn’t, instead of what it was. He was not the next Nolan Ryan, but as fire-balling, Texas-bred phenoms go, he was not the next David Clyde either. No pitcher in history may have been as dominant as Wood was, at age 20, in his 20-strikeout one-hitter for the Cubs in 1998. But he overcame injuries to become an All-Star reliever, pitched 14 seasons over all and made more than $73 million. His career was a success.

Carlos Zambrano

In each of the last 10 years of his career, Zambrano hit at least one home run. He finished with 24 over all, and at .388, he had a higher slugging percentage than more than a dozen hitters in Cooperstown — including one, Bill Mazeroski, who homered to win a World Series. The difference, of course, is that Zambrano was a pitcher.

Shohei Ohtani, Japan’s Two-Way Star, Aims to Take M.L.B. Back to Its Future

ORLANDO, Fla. — Shohei Ohtani poses a wonderful problem for Major League Baseball. A 23-year-old superstar in Japan, Ohtani has announced his intention to join a team in North America next year, and the suitors are lining up to court him. They are also trying to figure out whether they can accommodate his desire to do something no major leaguer has managed in generations: play two ways, as a starting pitcher and an everyday batter.

A left-handed slugger and a right-handed pitcher, Ohtani has played in the outfield or as a designated hitter on the days he did not pitch for his current team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, and did it well enough to become known as Japan’s Babe Ruth. But Ohtani’s plan to continue double duty could drag his American employers far outside their comfort zones, tampering with modern rituals of caring for an M.L.B. starting pitcher as if he were a piece of fine crystal.

“The traditional line of thinking is that it’s extremely difficult to do either pitching or hitting,” Thad Levine, the Minnesota Twins’ general manager, said recently. “That’s why teams haven’t tried it. But I think you’re going to see it happen here very soon.”

Several M.L.B. executives have said they would be happy to craft a plan to keep Ohtani healthy as a two-way player. They know that his choice of team may depend on the club’s willingness to accommodate his multiple skills, and they are reluctant to stifle creativity in their traditionally slow-to-evolve sport. They would rather see how far Ohtani can take his audacious experiment.

“This is an entertainment business,” said Sandy Alderson, the Mets’ general manager. “The foundation is baseball, but it’s entertainment. To see someone with that kind of talent do what others have potentially not been able to do, that would be an exciting experience for the team involved as well as the rest of baseball. It’s going to be fascinating.”

Ohtani, who was named the most valuable player of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Pacific League in 2016, was limited by ankle and hamstring injuries this year, batting in only 65 games and making five starts on the mound. He had a .332 batting average with eight home runs, and put together a 3.20 E.R.A. pitching. In 2016, Ohtani hit .322 with 22 home runs, and he had a 1.86 E.R.A. with 174 strikeouts over 140 innings. In one notable start, he threw 31 pitches that were at least 99 miles per hour.

Many other players have been talented enough to succeed in either job. After arm injuries and control issues undermined him in 2001 following 41 major league starts, Rick Ankiel converted from pitcher to outfielder and reached the majors again in 2007. Madison Bumgarner, the San Francisco Giants ace, has 17 home runs in his eight full seasons, and it’s tempting to wonder what he might accomplish if he played first base between pitching starts.

But with millions of dollars riding on every star’s shoulders — and knees, ankles, elbows, core muscles — their employers prefer to play it safe.

“There’s been a lot of talent that currently resides in major league baseball that is capable of doing it both ways,” said Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager. “There’s some exceptional pitchers that can really hit, but from a protection standpoint, people just declare one or the other.”

Ohtani’s injuries raise some obvious doubts about the wisdom of letting him hold both jobs, in addition to concerns about his ability to do it against an even higher level of competition than he faced in Japan.

M.L.B. also has a less forgiving schedule — 162 regular-season games vs. Japan’s 143, with every Monday off — and the travel is more strenuous. The longest distance between teams’ stadiums in Japan is about 900 aerial miles, roughly equal to a trip from New York to St. Louis. And teams in Ohtani’s league use six pitchers in their rotation instead of five, as most M.L.B. teams do.

“It would take a unique skill set, both physical and mental,” Jon Daniels, the Texas Rangers’ general manager, said of the two-way challenge. “And a unique setup for those skills to play out, proper health and recovery, and all those elements, as well. I would think it’s possible.”

It’s difficult to find a recent example of a player doing what Ohtani aims to achieve. But some research, using a standard of at least 15 major league games on the mound and 15 more at a different position in the same season, turned up Willie Smith of the 1964 Los Angeles Angels.

Smith pitched in 15 games that year and played the outfield in 87. A left-hander in both jobs, he batted .301 with 11 home runs and had a 2.84 E.R.A., mostly as a reliever.

The sport’s greatest two-way player was Ruth, who began his career as a dominant starting pitcher and then did both assignments regularly for the Boston Red Sox in 1918 and 1919 as he started to transform himself into the Sultan of Swat.

In those two seasons, he hit .312 with 40 home runs and 174 R.B.I., mostly while playing left field, and he had a 2.55 E.R.A. in just under 300 innings on the mound.

Most other players who held dual roles worked in an even earlier era, before or near the beginning of the 20th century: Jesse TannehillDoc WhiteHarry Howell and Doc Crandall.

“The nutrition was different then, the travel was different, the media pressure — everything,” said Erik Neander, the general manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, who are letting one of their top prospects experiment as a two-way player.

With the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, the Rays selected Brendan McKay out of the University of Louisville and gave him a $7 million signing bonus. McKay, a left-hander, was 11-3 in his final college season with a 2.56 E.R.A. and 146 strikeouts while hitting .341 with 18 home runs and 57 R.B.I.

The Rays rated McKay as the best position player and as the best pitcher on their draft board, and they told him he did not yet need to choose one position.

“We recognized that our experience managing something like this mentally, physically, emotionally is very, very limited,” Neander said. “So as important as anything else was learning from Brendan, getting a better understanding of him and how he balances his time, and then take it from there.”

McKay made six pitching starts for the Class A short-season Hudson Valley Renegades this year, while appearing in 15 games as a designated hitter and 21 as a first baseman. The player picked second in the draft, the high schooler Hunter Greene, also used his first minor-league assignment to test playing two ways, but by the end of summer he had committed to pitching exclusively.

Ohtani considered going straight to M.L.B. after high school, but he chose the Fighters because they promised him the chance to pitch and play in the outfield. If he ever opts to play just one position, it is expected to be pitching.

“He’s one of the best talents in the world,” Levine said. “I think he is clearly going to have success in the major leagues. He may need a little time to transition, but there are so many quality pitchers that come over from Japan, and when all is said and done, I think he’ll be one of the best.”

It isn’t clear whether Ohtani has a preference between the National League, where he could bat on the days he pitches, and the American League, where the option of being a designated hitter would allow him to play every day while protecting his body from the rigors of fielding.

“I want to hear what teams over there say and what kind of situations might be available,” Ohtani said at a news conference this month when he announced his intention to sign with an M.L.B. team.

M.L.B. has already made compromises to accommodate the arrival of Ohtani and his extraordinary talent. The method of buying a player’s rights from a Japanese team was supposed to change in a way that would lower the cost in many cases, but the old system, allowing up to $20 million, has been grandfathered (pending approval from M.L.B. owners) for this off-season so that the Fighters will have more incentive to relinquish Ohtani.

Likewise, Ohtani is making concessions to join M.L.B. next season. If he had waited until he turned 25, Ohtani could have received a major league contract without restrictions, for perhaps upward of $100 million. But at 23, he is subject to strict M.L.B. limits on signing players classified as international amateurs.

His 2018 salary could be no higher than the major league minimum, $545,000, and his signing bonus would depend on which team he chose.

The clubs with the largest remaining pools of international money to spend are the Rangers and Yankees ($3.5 million each), and the Minnesota Twins ($3.2 million). Virtually all M.L.B. teams, even those with smaller pools of money to spend, such as the Seattle Mariners ($1.5 million) and the Los Angeles Dodgers ($300,000), are expected to make a pitch to Ohtani, trying to sell him on their cities, their facilities, their plans for him, and even their Japanese-American fan bases. The formal bidding could start by the end of this week.

For Ohtani, there is an upside to starting without a huge guaranteed deal: Teams have less reason to fear the hazards of letting him play a dual role.

In any case, much about Ohtani will be unique and uncertain — the rules surrounding him, his recruitment and his skill set. Even his last name may require a new understanding. Many usually reliable sources have spelled it Otani, without an “h,” but his agency recently pointed out the preferred rendering on his Fighters jersey: Ohtani. Presumably, the name does not have a two-way future.

The player himself will present a complicated juggling act for his employers and his opponents alike, but one that will undoubtedly add a new layer of inventiveness to Major League Baseball.