Debating the idea of the New York Yankees signing Shohei Otani from Japan.
Japanese superstar Shohei Otani is looking to leave Japan and join a Major League ballclub in the United States. The 23-year-old outfielder/pitcher provides an exciting dilemma for all suitors that may have their sights on him this upcoming offseason because he can be highly effective as a pitcher or an outfielder. Nicknamed the Japanese “Babe Ruth” for his ability to hit and pitch at a high-level Otani is definitely on the New York Yankees radar and rightfully so.
In only 104 games with Nippon Ham of the Japanese league, Otani hit 22 home runs with 67 rbi’s, .322 batting average, .416 on-base percentage, .588 slugging percentage and a 1.004 on-base plus slugging percentage. As a pitcher he put Cy Young-esque numbers with a 10-4 record, 1.86 ERA, 174 strikeouts, and 11.2 strikeouts per 9 innings, culminating in a 71.4 winning percentage. Yes, the Japanese league isn’t at the same level as the Major leagues but there is no doubt the Japanese superstar can play.
Along with the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees have the capability of offering Otani the most money as an international free agent with the highest contract offer reaching $8.3 million under the new collective bargaining agreement.
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When evaluating international talent it’s always a gamble on whether or not the same success will translate in the states but a talent like Otani’s is hard to find, much less ignore. Not all Japanese imports turn out to enjoy successful careers such as Yu Darvish, Ichiro Suzuki, or Hideki Matsui but in the case of Otani, he gets two chances to prove himself since he has the chance to be effective on either side of the ball.
The Yankees struck out with Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa but the front office is hopeful Otani can have a similar if not greater impact than the one left by 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. Irabu finished 34-35 with a 5.15 ERA in his tenure with the Yankees, and Igawa had compiled a record of 2-4 with a 6.66 E.R.A in two seasons in the Bronx before being demoted to the minor leagues for the remainder of his 5 year, 20 million dollar contract he signed with the Yankees prior to the 2007 season.
Fellow Japanese countryman Masahiro Tanaka has a player option for 2018 which he’s expected to pick up, therefore enabling Tanaka to help make the transition from Japan to the states much easier for Otani if the Yankees sign him. Adding a weapon such as Otani to a pitching staff headed by Luis Severino and Sonny Gray can pose a lethal threat for opponents in 2018 while also getting him some at-bats in a potent lineup anchored by Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge.
Either way, the excitement and endless possibilities in which Otani can contribute to the team along with the cheap price tag for a player with such talent are more than enough for the Yankees to pursue the star free agent. The “Babe Ruth” nickname is just icing on the cake.