Milwaukee Brewers: Can the Crew land Shohei Otani?
By David Gasper
Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported today that there is “increasing confidence” that Japanese superstar Shohei Otani will come to MLB in 2018 and be posted this winter. There’s been so much hype around Otani, should the Milwaukee Brewers go after him?
Some of you may be wondering just who is Shohei Otani? To put it bluntly, he’s been said to be the second coming of Babe Ruth by scouts and executives around the league. He’s a Cy Young caliber pitcher and a Silver Slugger caliber hitter. He would be the most impactful two way player since The Babe. That’s how good he is.
The stats are incredible and the 6’5″, 220 lbs. Otani could bring this to the Major Leagues next year.
"He’s an athlete who, in 2016, was named the NPB Pacific League’s best pitcher and its best designated hitter—earning a 1.86 ERA in 20 starts and striking out 11.2 batters every nine innings, while putting up a 1.004 OPS, launching 22 home runs and reaching base at a .416 clip across nearly 400 plate appearances. Otani is a player many scouts believe is ready to step into MLB today as a front-of-the-rotation starter or an everyday outfielder with a middle-of-the-order bat—or maybe both. He’s something baseball has not seen for lifetimes. He’s a modern day Babe Ruth."
His fastball sits 97-100 MPH and he can hit for a high average with power. That’s unheard of. Oh, and he’s only 22 YEARS OLD! Seems like a guy David Stearns would want on the Milwaukee Brewers, don’t you think? So can the Brewers land the Nippon-Ham Fighters ace and best bat? There will be a lot of competition for him during the off-season.
San Diego and Tampa Bay were also in attendance. That makes 15 teams that went to scout Otani’s pitching performance in Japan, and the Milwaukee Brewers were not one of them. But that doesn’t mean fans should give up hope of seeing Otani in Milwaukee. Keep in mind, the team didn’t scout Eric Thames in Korea. However, Thames had less fanfare than Otani.
Due to new posting rules, the maximum bid that can be placed to gain exclusive rights to negotiate with Otani is $20 million. If they aren’t awarded the rights, the money will be returned so there’s little harm in trying. Most teams can and will place the $20 million fee and then its up to Otani to pick.
The difficulty is convincing Otani that Milwaukee would be a great place for him. He could earn a $200 million contract if he was a free agent and not subject to posting rules. He would be extremely affordable for the early part of his MLB career, but could get expensive rather quickly. With the Brewers playing in the National League, it’s difficult to find a good spot for his two-way talent. Yes, the pitchers hit in the NL, but only on the days they start. To get him in the lineup on the days he doesn’t pitch, he would have to play the field somewhere and most teams wouldn’t want to risk their ace pitcher playing in the outfield.
The Brewers also lack a connection to Japan at the moment. Perhaps if Nori Aoki was still here there could be a chance he could convince him, but that’s not the case. Otani apparently idolizes Yu Darvish and would like some sort of Japanese connection at his new home.
Since the Brewers have an extremely low payroll right now, they have the flexibility to add a larger contract to the payroll in the short term. Convincing Otani to come to Milwaukee in the short term will be extremely difficult. With teams like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers after him, they can flex their financial power a little better than the Milwaukee Brewers.
The only hope it seems that David Stearns has of landing the phenom is if Otani prefers a smaller market. However, that seems unlikely. It appears that Otani’s best fit is in the American League where he can DH on the days he doesn’t pitch. The Brewers would only have to deal with him once every three years.
David Stearns will probably give it a shot and perform his due diligence as a Major League GM, but will most likely come up short in the pursuit of Shohei Otani.
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Whether the Milwaukee Brewers land Otani or not, he’s going to be a fun player to watch. Rest assured, Otani’s name will dominate the Hot Stove this winter and negotiations will be tense.