By Terry Cushman – @AVIDBOS_PODCAST
Nearly every major league club is scouting Japanese Phenom Shohei Otani. Among the favorites to land his services are the New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, and our own Boston Red Sox.
Otani will potentially cross the Pacific Ocean into the United States with a very unique skill set. He is projected to have perennial 40HR power, and the pitching prowess to become an Ace on any team’s roster. Otani was injured for much of 2017 after undergoing ankle surgery before the season began, and then eventually suffering a strained left thigh for much of the summer. In 2016, before those injuries crept up, he hit 22HR, 67RBI’s, with a healthy .322/.416/.588 slash line. If you’re not impressed with Otani’s offensive stats, from 20 starts on the mound that same season he posted a 1.86 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and struck out 174 batters.
Each team seeking to sign Otani will have to fill out a questionnaire sent by his agent containing seven questions, many of which range from each teams intended to plan to utilize his abilities, team programs/accommodations, and how adaptable/friendly their community is.
While Otani and his agent’s approach seems very thorough and analytical, the New York Yankees have to be the heavy favorite to land Otani. The Bronx is currently the home to Masahiro Tanaka, who has had a very successful stint here in the states. Tanaka very well could have landed a more lucrative deal this off season, but was so comfortable with New York that he decided NOT to opt out of his current contract. Hideki Matsui was stellar during his tenure with the Yankees, and was an integral member of the 2009 World Series Championship team. Other recent notable Japanese players include Hiroki Kuroda, and the legendary Ichiro Suzuki. New York has a long history of success with their Japanese signees.
Another rationale which is fueling my suspicions is the fact the Yankees don’t seem to be active on any other fronts. They are not focused on acquiring Giancarlo Stanton, or any other impactful free agents. Signing C.C. Sabathia to a one year deal also does not seem to be a high priority, especially given his resurgence in 2017. Could this be due to the fact they desire Otani to fill out their rotation instead?
As for our Boston Red Sox, is Otani worth the risk? Pablo Sandoval is making close to $20M in each of the next two seasons despite the fact he was released from the organization last summer. Rusney Castillo is owed another $37.5M over the next three seasons. Hanley Ramirez is set to make $22M this coming season, with a vesting option for that same figure in 2019 if he can make 450 plate appearances. David Price seems perpetually on the verge of blowing out his troublesome left elbow at $31M a year.
The Castillo contract is the most haunting of them all. Whenever a team makes an international signing there is a great potential for failure. Castillo has never played a full season with the big club after serving out half of his contract. He has literally given the Red Sox NOTHING. I would also be remised if I left out the fact Yoan Moncada has gotten off to a slow start, albeit with another team since he was packaged up in the Chris Sale trade. Although these missteps fall on Ben Cherington, the Red Sox haven’t had a ton of luck with international signings of players already in their 20’s.
Based on a multitude of poor circumstances, the responsible thing to do on the part of the Red Sox is to pass on signing Otani. There are plenty of PROVEN alternatives available on the market who could thrust the Red Sox into another championship. Their window to win is already very short. In fact, too short to take a chance on a 23 year old unproven ball player, despite his immense hype. Ardent MLB observers know for a fact J.D. Martinez, Jay Bruce, and as much as I hate to say it, Giancarlo Stanton can hit close to 40 or more home runs, because we have seen it with our own eyes. There is no need for Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox to be reckless.
When I think of potential for Shohei Otani winning a batting title and Cy Young award, two clichés come to mind: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!” And… “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Let that be the front office of another team. Not the Red Sox.
ICYMI: EPISODE 23 OF THE AVIDBOSTON PODCAST! WILL THE SOX GET STANTON? IF SO, WHO GETS TRADED?
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