Shohei Otani, considered the Babe Ruth of Japan, is reportedly ready to come to the MLB next season, and the Yankees are one of several teams interested in his services. Brian Cashman and assistant GM Jean Afterman recently went overseas to see Otani, 23, pitch and hit for the Nippon Ham Fighters.
“He’s definitely intriguing,” Joe Girardi said Wednesday of the two-way international star. “Obviously I haven’t seen much of him, I just hear reports about him. I was asked today: ‘Could a guy pitch and DH some?’ And I think it’s possible. I do.
“I think you’d be concerned a little bit the day before his start. But it does create a unique situation where if he’s able to DH, it does kind of open up another spot on your roster. So, to me, times where you need to go to a six-man rotation becomes a lot easier with that open spot. And there are some different things you could do.”
Because he’s not waiting until age 25, Ohtani can be paid a max of $ 10.1 million, according to Yahoo! Sports. And while the luxury-tax conscious Yankees won’t have a financial advantage over other teams as a result, it makes Ohtani even more attractive because initially he wouldn’t be nearly as costly as Masahiro Tanaka (seven years, $ 155 million).
The Bombers’ 2018 rotation could include Luis Severino, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. Tanaka can opt-out at season’s end, though it remains to be seen whether he will exercise that right. CC Sabathia, who has pitched extremely well in 2017, could be a candidate to come back on a one-year deal. And Chance Adams, the 23-year-old righty, continues to develop at Triple-A Scranton.
Otani is hitting .346/.416/.574 in 52 games with seven homers and 28 RBIs for his Japanese team. He has been sidelined due to ankle and thigh injuries in 2017, limiting him to just three starts in which he has gone 1-2 with a 6.97 ERA.
“I think he could probably get a pretty good salary over here, and I think he probably wants to compete against the best,” Girardi said. “And I think that’s great. I think that’s what’s in every competitor’s heart. They want to match up against the best and see how they fare, so I think it’s great.”
Cashman hasn’t been able to comment on Ohtani due to MLB rules.
He did tell Jim Duquette on the former Mets GM’s podcast: “We have a lot of talent here in the states that are certainly capable of (being two-way players), but obviously because of protection and the specialization – not wanting to risk any of the talent (getting injured). That’s the main reason you don’t see it.”
Cashman mentioned that Dwight Gooden could’ve done it with his ability to swing the bat.
“No one wants to put someone really good at risk, but I think it’s an individual situation,” Cashman said.
The Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs are said to be among the other teams interested in Ohtani.