No, they’re probably not going to land Otani, but the fact that there is chance they could is pretty cool.
A new report from Newsday’s Marc Carig has the Mets front office intrigued by Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Otani. The team has unfortunately not stumbled upon a giant pot of gold, but instead are taking advantage new rules regarding international players established by Major League Baseball to possibly make a play on the 23-year-old phenom.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Otani, he’s a hard-throwing right-handed starting pitcher that plays the outfield when he’s not on the mound and hits the crap out of the ball when he comes to bat. Yeah, that’s definitely different.
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How are the Mets possibly in on this? Well, signing Otani would be relatively cheap (you knew it was coming). Once his current team, the Nippon Hokkaido-Ham Fighters, are paid what will likely be a $20 million posting fee, the winning team won’t have to fork over a ton of money right off the bat for Otani’s services. The previously mentioned rules cap Otani’s potential salary for 2018 at $3.5 million forcing him to basically look to make most of his income off of endorsement deals.
Do you know what’s a great city to play in when it comes to endorsement deals? That’s right, New York! That’s one big reason why a pairing between these two could work.
Carig also notes in his report that Otani is represented by CAA. This firm currently represents Yoenis Cespedes, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom, so they’re already familiar with the Mets and have made deals work with them. Could both of those factors push the organization to really make a play for Otani? We’ll have to wait and see.
What we do now is that a signing that big would fill a couple of big areas that Mets need to address this winter. After 2016, we know all to well that pitching depth can evaporate in a blink of an eye so adding a front of the line starter like Otani to any rotation is a huge boost. Adding him to one that already includes Syndergaard and deGrom, and you’re talking about the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball.
On days that he’s not on the mound, Otani would also help out in the outfield. With the uncertainty still being present around Michael Conforto‘s shoulder and when he’ll be ready, Otani could serve as a fantastic replacement in right field with Juan Lagares in center field if Conforto’s return is delayed.
Whichever team ends up with Otani next season or the following one will be in for an experiment. A real two-way player in the majors hasn’t been a thing in a very long time (I’m thinking Babe Ruth, but there were probably others that weren’t as good after him, right?). It’ll surely be interesting to see how he will adjust to MLB pitching and hitting, and if he can maintain his two-way talent throughout his career out here.
Am I on board with signing him? Absolutely. Am I getting my hopes up for it? In no way shape or form.