The Otani Decision is Getting Closer – Do the Cubs Have a Chance?

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By Todd Johnson

It won’t be long before Shohei Otani will begin his courtship of major-league teams. Once he is posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters, every major league team will match the posting fee for him. Who Otani picks is anybody’s guess at this point. From what I have read, money is not the issue. What Otani wants is to play in the major leagues. Unlike most American athletes, he is not driven by money. If he was, he would wait until he turns 25 in the summer of 2019 and he could sign a contract with any team for any price.

As a result of his decision to come over this winter, his earning potential is limited as an international free agent under the latest collective-bargaining agreement. Otani can sign for as little as $300,000 on up to somewhere close to$3.5 million, depending on how much money some teams have left in their international pool.

While the Cubs may still technically be in the running for his services, they can only offer him $300,000. They can’t make any secret backdoor deal and run the risk of losing Otani.

Let’s just say, for argument sake, that the Cubs sign him. What is it that they get? What does he have that makes him so special?

Basic Info
23-years-old
6’5” 190 lbs.
Throws – Right
Bats – Left
Positions: Pitcher, RIght Field, DH

That’s right, you get three positions in one. That’s one reason I believe that he might actually head to an American League team. Then again, he wouldn’t get to hit when he pitched. So that makes me think he could head to a National League team.

Stats
42-15 career record
2.52 ERA/2.78 FIP
624 Ks in 534 IP
.287 average/.360 OBP
70 doubles/48 home runs
166 RBI
.862 OPS
13 stolen bases.

From a scouting standpoint, he throws a fastball in the upper 90s and low 100s. This past season though, he only pitched in five games, getting to 124 pitches in his last start but still throwing 101 miles an hour in that start. He does have a wipeout slider to accompany his fastball. He also throws a splitter and a curve but everything runs off his fastball.

David DeFreitas from 2080 Baseball said the following about his pitching skills:

Top-of-the-rotation guy with smooth, easy mechanics; has a chance for plus command of three plus pitches. Double-plus athlete that is still growing into his body and developing coordination. Has the makeup to go with the advanced skill set. Aggressive, will challenge; pounds the zone and locates to all quadrants with plus ability to put hitters away. Comfortable in high-profile position; big-game mentality, competitor; throttles up/back; shows the ability to win without his best stuff. Above-average defender, moves well off the mound and accurate throwing to bases.

As a hitter and outfielder, he is equally as dangerous. From the left side of the plate, he can do anything with a baseball. He can hit for power and he can hit for average.

After a while, he comes across as some super video game player who can do it all. And from my understanding, he can. Whoever lands him will immediately get one of the top five players in the game. He potentially could hit 25 home runs and strike out 200 batters in the same year. He could drive in 80 and pitch in 160 innings.

The Cubs have a chance. Is the chance very good? I don’t know. To try and attract someone not motivated by money by a team that has a lot of it is a little strange. If the Cubs are going to sell Otani on coming to Chicago, the Cubs are going to have to get Otani to believe that he can be Otani as a Cub.

If I were Theo, I would focus on three things in my sales pitch
1. There is a definite young corps of players behind him for the next four seasons. There will be more on their way after that.
2. He could definitely play a position two to three times a rotation. He would pitch one day, take a day off, pinch-hit the next, and then he could play two days in the outfield.
3. He could be the ace of the rotation with a chance to win a World Series every year through 2021.

It what Otani really wants to do is win, there’s no better place than Chicago to win the World Series.

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