Mets offseason move #5: The Meiji Restoration
The Meiji Restoration was the most prosperous period in Japanese history, in which power was once again consolidated around the emperor, and the country rapidly industrialized while incorporating Western ideas. This led to a boom in technology and military might, putting Japan on equal footing with the other powers of the world.
The Mets need to undergo a Meiji Restoration of their own. Allow me to explain.
Major League Baseball has seen many Japanese baseball players achieve great success. Ichiro Suzuki, Hideo Nomo, Hideki Matsui, and Yu Darvish are four names that spring immediately to mind. For too long, though, those names were seen as anomalies, outliers that belied the fact that Japanese players, by and large, weren't on the same level as Americans.
The ascension of Shohei Ohtani into the pantheon of baseball's greatest players of all-time has opened the floodgates to the idea that Japan may be hiding more talent that can play, and thrive, at the top level. Kodai Senga has been one of the Mets' lone bright spots in his rookie year, while Masataka Yoshida of the Boston Red Sox has also impressed in his freshman campaign.
Japan's thrilling win in the World Baseball Classic wasn't achieved against college players or minor leaguers. They beat the best players in the world from the U.S., Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and other baseball hotbeds. In a storybook, and perhaps allegorical ending, Japan's best player, Ohtani, struck out the U.S.'s best player, Mike Trout.
As it stands, Ohtani is in a lost situation with the Los Angeles Angels. The team hasn't reached the playoffs since 2014, and its trade deadline shopping spree has done nothing but mortgage part of the franchise's future. It seems almost certain that Ohtani will leave this offseason.
Steve Cohen needs to do whatever it takes to get Ohtani to Queens, and the number will be considerable. Not only that, star Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto is said to be high on the Mets' priority list. By signing Ohtani and Yamamoto to go with Senga, the Mets could herald themselves as the pipeline for Japan's greatest players.
The Mets do have experience with Japanese players, having once employed the services of Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Masato Yoshii, Kaz Matsui, and Daisuke Matsuzaka, but snagging Ohtani and Yamamoto would, like the Meiji Restoration, concentrate Japanese power in a way the world has not yet seen.
Ohtani is thought to prefer the West Coast, which is closer to Japan and has a higher Japanese population, but what if the Mets created the most Japanese-friendly organization in Major League Baseball? Ohtani is already baseball's biggest star, but he could reach a new stratosphere in New York while still benefiting from the presence of his fellow countrymen.
This move could be the best indicator yet that MLB teams see Japanese talent as a viable way to compete for a World Series, and the Mets could be on the vanguard. Focusing the team's identity around Ohtani would be Steve Cohen's biggest move yet.