Are you ready Cubs fans? Shohei Otani is officially the hottest Japanese import in all of America – well, at least for baseball fans.
The 23-year-old pitcher/outfielder for the Nippon Ham Fighters announced Friday that the team will allow him to come to the states and play in the MLB.
For those of you who still living under a rock, Otani is being framed as a true two-way player. With a career 2.52 ERA and 10.3% strikeout rate, Otani has proven he is already one of the best arms on the market. But watch one at bat and it comes clear why Otani is well-worth the hype.
In case you couldn’t tell, he hit that ball into the FREAKING TUNNEL. Otani has serious power with a career .286 batting average, while also smacking 22 diners in 2016. And despite battling ankle and thigh injuries, he still mustered 8 homers in 65 games last season.
However for the Cubs, the bat is great, but they’re truly after Otani and his arm – he touches triple digits. Believe it or not, most people thought Otani was being coveted for his hitting when I wrote about him last month. So, just for a reminder, here is a clip of Otani mowing down the 2014 MLB All-Star team.
Otani is the most impressive player we’ve had from Japan since Yu Darvish. But unlike Darvish, Otani’s asking price will come nowhere near the price of Darvish – because legally it can’t.
How the Cubs can sign Otani
Due to MLB’s CBA, Otani essentially is signing a minor league deal that has bonuses attached to the deal. For the Cubs, due international spending penalties, they can only offer Otani around $300k in bonuses – one of the lowest amounts any team can offer.
Now, the interesting wrinkle that could play out in the Cubs favor is that Otani turned down a massive payday to come to the MLB early. Had he waited until he 25, Otani would have been able to sign with any team without any restrictions. And we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars here, all to play just two years early.
Instead, Otani said he would rather forego the payday and play for a team now, making a statement that had to make the Cubs front office giddy. (Quotes came from this ESPN article)
“I am not yet a complete player yet, and I want to go to an environment where I can continue to get better,” said Otani. “I felt the same way when I graduated from high school. And it is my strongest reason for wanting to go now.”
This means the deal is more about the current state of that club and less about the money he will be offered. Great news for the Cubs and the tiny scrap of bonus spending they have available to them.
Buckle Up, Folks!
With Shohei Otani officially making the move to the states, he ascends to the top of most teams free agency list. With the GM meetings coming next week, the Otani news likely slows down the entire market.
Since every team can theoretically afford Otani, every team will be putting a concerted effort to sway the Japanese superstar.
And While it makes sense for Otani to head to an American League team, he is open to ideas from his suitors.
“I don’t know if it will be possible, but I want to hear what teams over there say and what kind of situations might be available. Until that process has started, I can’t say how it might work out.”
The hotstove is about to get even hotter, Cubs fans.