The dream of landing Japanese superstar Shohei Otani has been flirted with by most Cubs fans. A legitimate two-way player is always going to catch the attention of even the most casual of fans.
The Cubs need starters, and Otani could possibly be the most dynamic arm on the market in years. The majority of talk has centered around finding back of the rotation help. But when a player is being referred to as his countries Babe Ruth, you have my full attention. However, Otani has always been unlikely piece to end up in Chicago, even after he announced he was coming to the MLB in 2018.
Show Me The Money
For starters, the Cubs can only offer him somewhere in the range of a 300k signing bonus due to the new CBA. For reference, the Rangers can offer the most bonus money at $3,535,000.
So, the Cubs are playing from behind in that regard. But, the good news on Otani posting earlier than expected is that he is forgoing a massive payday to come play in the MLB this year. Like a reportedly $190+ mil payday to come to the states, leading people to assume he is doing for the love of the game.
Personally, I find it hard to believe that the most hyped Japanese player since Ichiro is coming to the MLB just because. But here we are.
Pros And Cons For The Cubs
We also don’t know if Otani plans to be an actual two-way player. Clearly, on the mound is where teams want his focus at, where he registered a 1.86 ERA in 2016. But Otani hit .322 with 22 home runs in 2016 and another 8 homers in 2017.
His skill set is a much better fit in the AL with the DH, especially with his recent ankle injury that kept him to just 25 games this season in the NPB. But if Otani is committed to consistently hitting everyday, playing the outfield in Chicago for at bats might not be what he is looking for.
A pro for the Cubs are that everyone has the same ceiling. Otani’s choice will depend on the fit on the team and the city, which should give an advantage to the Cubs. However, since there is a cap on how much Otani can make, every single team is going to be involved.
Plus, if he does want regular at bats, he likely profiles better in the AL. But, if there’s one thing I will never do is count this front office out on any deal.
So, The Cubs Chances Are…?
While the Cubs are limited in funds, they are still one of the best teams in baseball. They also happened to have one of the more entertaining clubhouses in baseball. Surely Joe Maddon would find ways to get Otani to the plate throughout the season.
It’s not entirely impossible that Otani agrees to an extension for 2019 – in theory, of course. The ‘spirit of the CBA’ is something you are going to hear a lot as the Otani-Mania starts. Essentially, the MLB is concerned teams are negotiating under the table deals for extensions or bonuses as a way around the strict CBA rules.
But, if the Cubs can sell the Japanese flame-thrower on a ‘prove it’ one year deal with hope of a mammoth extension – maybe he signs?
All of this is speculation of course, but with Otani likely capped at roughly $3.5 mil for 2018, teams are going to get creative to stand out from the rest. He could also supplement his contract with marketing opportunities in a larger city. New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago quickly come to mind.
But, the entire situation boils down to two things. Does he want to get paid or does he want to win? Coming a year earlier than expected to make less money would lean more towards winning. And if he is truly looking to play for a contender, the Cubs stand a better chance than most.