Shohei is a Two-Way, But Whichever Way Will He Go? 

by Clayton Richer | Posted on Wednesday, September 20th, 2017
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If one knows US sportsbooks, and one does, there must be many a pool as to which team will sign Japanese prodigy Shohei Otani. Though a more accurate comparison would probably be the race for the money in It‘s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. A combination of Otani’s young age and the MLB’s convoluted rules means that any one team can spare the change required to sign the player who, according to the hype, could very well be the second coming of Hachiman. On the other hand, Major League clubs will have to splurge on the intangibles to lure the Nippon ace.  

The good news is that Otani is apparently not money-driven and just wants to play baseball at the highest level. For instance, the reason he stayed in Japan – which he wanted to leave for the States right after high school, was not all the money he would be missing out, but the fact that a team allowed him to be an outfielder/designated hitter as well as a starting pitcher. Moreover, according to San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist Scott Ostler, “he is intelligent, humble and good-natured, clean-living, a great teammate.” In one word, he’s Japanese. Therefore, team executives have to be very subtle and tactful when dealing with him because, as Ostler rightfully points out, “It’s going to be a courtship, not a bidding war.” Reportedly, a Giants delegation will be, if it hasn’t already been sent, to woo Otani. A delegation that Ostler suggests, and not even necessarily tongue-in-cheek, should comprise Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Steve Kerr.   

Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto may have beaten the Giants to the punch, though. Well, Dipoto and 32 representatives from 16 teams who scouted Otani in a game last week. However, Dipoto’s creativeness and persuasiveness could give him an added edge, says Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone, who suggests that “The Mariners could try to sway him on their Japanese legacy and the livability of their city… express a cohesive plan to utilize him as a two-way player” and “make a run at signing pitcher Yu Darvish” who is Otani’s idol and will be a free agent. Well, those sound like things that teams other than the Mariners could actually do, too, but thanks for participating. 

Of course, all of the above could be rendered a moot point. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said last Thursday that the league is in no hurry and perfectly willing to wait two years for the wunderkind. “Otani is a great player. We’re always interested in having great players in Major League Baseball,” Manfred said per the Chicago Tribune. “From my perspective, I’m more concerned about having the right, durable system than whether a player comes this year or two years from now.” Otani is 40-15 with a 2.57 ERA and 605 Ks in 528 innings, and a .286 batting average with 47 home runs and 163 RBIs. Otani has played just 52 games this season because of thigh and ankle injuries and made just his third pitching start for the Ham Fighters this week. Wait, his team’s name is the Ham Fighters? No wonder he wants to leave. 

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Clayton Richer
About the Author

Clayton Richer is an MLB scribe from north of the border with a slight bias for the Toronto Blue Jays. Clayton has also been the shop-keeper at Baseball Hot Corner since the sites inception in 2012. Follow and interact with Clayton on Twitter @MLBHotCorner or @ClaytonRicher

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