Japan’s Babe Ruth Shohei Otani potentially coming to Philadelphia isn’t a dream
Few international players have garnered as much attention as Shohei Otani playing for Nippon Ham in Japan. The 22-year-old has dominated in every aspect of the game whether as a pitcher or home run hitter.
In 104 games last season Otani hit 22 home runs with a .322 batting average in Japan as an outfielder. In addition, he made 20 starts and posted a 1.86 ERA with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings.
Otani has expressed to his Japanese club that he wishes to be “posted” for the opportunity to come to North America to play Major League Baseball. For a team to gain negotiating rights with Otani they must offer his Japanese club a bid of no more than $20 million. In cases such as Masahiro Tanaka and Otani, the $20 million bid is likely to be offered.
After that, the club can negotiate a deal projected to be worth over $250 million with the Japanese superstar. With only $6.35 million in payroll set for 2018, the Phillies can afford to front-load a contract to Otani.
It’s likely the Phillies, or any other team, will mirror the contract New York gave Tanaka, which includes buyouts and options after four years. It’s a safety net for both the player and club that’s a near necessity with this type of player.
Otani wants to be able to hit and pitch in the big leagues, which many believe would restrict his interest to only American League teams where he can be the designated hitter. However, Otani has experience playing left field in Japan and since 2013 has recorded only one official error in the outfield.
In the case of Philadelphia, an emphasis on Otani being a starting pitcher would be likely. This is an organization lacking top-tier pitching in their minor league system and being able to bring in a 22-year-old with international experience to head the rotation is priceless.
Otani would get the chance to hit every five days when he makes his scheduled starts, but as a power hitter, he’s not limited to the traditional ninth hole in the lineup. Additionally, thanks to his experience playing in the outfield, getting a start or two every week in left field could be beneficial to both Otani and the club.
The Phillies don’t have a ton of experience with Asian players and the posting system in recent years under the old management. At the trade deadline, general manager Matt Klentak brought in Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim from Baltimore.
During the Phillies’ last championship run So Taguchi and Tadahito Iguchi, both Japanese, played key bench roles for the club.
Philadelphia needs the superstars back in town to draw people to the ballpark. Rhys Hoskins is beginning to be that next big piece but the addition of Otani would create an even bigger draw on a nightly basis.
The need for pitching is there; the need for power is there; the financial capabilities are certainly there. Otani is worth the risk for this team and could be the next superstar to bring Philadelphia a championship.