A month ago the Cincinnati Reds were represented in Japan for the first appearance from Shohei Otani in months after missing time on the mound due to a thigh injury. It wasn’t the best outing, but he flashed the stuff that leaves many thinking he’s the best pitcher in Japan. C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported earlier this morning that Dick Williams to see the most recent, and what seems to be the final start in Japan for Ohtani.

As I wrote a month ago, the Reds would seem to be a long shot to bring in a player like Shohei Ohtani. To sign Ohtani it would require them to pay a posting fee of $20M. On top of that they would then have to give him a signing bonus. For the Reds would only be $300,000. Other teams could offer just over $10M if they traded for the max amount of international pool money. From that point he would make the league minimum for two years, then be arbitration eligible for the next four. That is assuming he didn’t agree to an extension before that. Major League Baseball will be watching this situation closely. They do not want a situation where a team promises to rip up the agreement and sign him to a “free agent” type of deal to work around the rules.

The signing bonus money doesn’t seem to be much of a concern for Shohei Ohtani. If he waited two years, and remained healthy, he’s be looking at a contract of $150-200M. The rules, however, don’t allow him to sign that right now, though. If this were about money, he would wait. It seems to be far more about playing in the Major Leagues. The Reds can offer that option. However, the larger issue may be that he wants to play both sides of the baseball. In Japan he’s been one of the best hitters in the league, too. He’d like to continue hitting.

That aspect of things makes it far more likely that he would sign with an American League team who can offer up the designated hitter position to him four times a week and also allow him to start every fifth day on the mound. A National League team would be required to play him in the field. You would be risking more injury, reducing the likelihood of him holding up over the long haul of the season just by simple wear-and-tear of doing both for six months. In Japan he’s played the corner outfield, but  the last time he spent more than eight games in the field in a season was when he was 18-years-old in 2013. Since then he’s been the DH almost exclusively when he wasn’t on the mound.

The signing would change things for the Reds, both on and off of the field. It would show the fans that, yes, the organization is serious about winning both in 2018 and into the future. It would create an international following that they have never had. And funnel in money from places that the marketing team at Great American Ballpark never dreamed of. The signing would give the Reds another pitcher for the rotation that they would feel comfortable to rely on. I still believe it’s a longshot that of all the places to go, that Cincinnati would be the best fit. With everything involved, it’s a hard sell. It does, however, beat what used to happen when we just wondered if the Reds would ever be serious about going after talent in Japan, Korea or Taiwan.

26 Responses

  1. Billy

    Theoretical question here… Baseball has seen a rise in specialization over the last 30 years. Now teams employ pitchers whose sole job is to get left handed batters out. In addition, starters are on far more strict pitch limits than in years past, and the last few years have seen relievers being relied on to pitch more of the innings.
    At the same time, we’re now seeing a few players (Otani, McKay, Greene before settling on pitching) who want to break the mold and both pitch and hit. I feel like a perfect storm is brewing for some cool experimentation…

    Suppose you had two players – a lefty and a righty – who were each capable of pitching and playing a position in the field (say LF or 1B). What would prevent a team from platooning these two players, with the righty pitching to all the right handed batters, and the southpaw getting the lefties? Would these pitchers be able give you 200-220 pitches and give your bullpen a rest every 5th day? Or would it still be true that they’d get hit around that third time through the lineup? If you didn’t use them for 100-110 pitches each, how much rest would they need before you ran them out there again? Would teams load up on lefties (or righties) to force one of the pitchers to do nearly all the pitching?

    • MK

      I think the only rule that would come into play here is the two pitchers would only get warm up pitches once in a game unless it was the beginning of an inning no matter how many times they come and go.

      • Billy

        I wonder how much of a difference warm up pitches really make. I mean, you don’t want anyone getting hurt, so it makes since to loosen up before throwing with max effort. At the same time, players loosen up before the game. Do we really know what it requires to get “loose”? It seems like you’d want a reliever who hasn’t thrown in 2 hours to get loose before coming in, but if you’re rotating pitchers every 1-2 batters, maybe that’s not needed.

    • James K

      Many years ago, the Orioles considered doing exactly that.

    • Colorado Red

      I have seen the Cards do that for 1 batter.
      (long time ago, and I think it was the cards)

      • Billy

        Yeah, I’m not talking about a late inning relief situation where you bring the LOOGY in to face a lefty, then send him to LF and pull the LF for a right-handed reliever for one batter, only to put him back in to face the next lefty. I’m proposing a straight up, full game strategy specifically intended to make sure the pitcher has the platoon advantage all game long, regardless of the batter.

  2. Trey

    I wonder if you could give him an off day before and after each game he pitches. That would leave 2 games in the field a week in additon to the AB’s he would get while pitching. If he turns out to be a great hitter in MLB, then he could get pinch hit opportunities on his “off” days. I wonder if that agreement would be enough to entice him vs being a DH on an AL club.

  3. The Duke

    I appreciate The Candlestick doing his due diligence, but not a chance in hell this is happening.

  4. theRickDeLux

    MLB has got to make the rules universal – either the pitcher bats in the AL or the NL has the DH. I was definitely a “pitcher bats” kind of guy for the longest time. But it just doesn’t make sense in today’s game. It would certainly solve the Reds outfield logjam.

  5. gregmlb

    This is why both leagues need to have the DH. I am not in favor of the DH but the American League seems to have an advantage to things like this , plus they can sign older players who don’t play in the field any longer.

    If you were able to pull this off I would think you could put them as the favorites in the Central.

  6. Jim Delaney

    I think the chances he comes to Cincinnati are very slim BUT I have read a few articles that Otani wants to play in MLB but be in a place that he will be comfortable and he may prefer to steer clear of a huge city with huge media coverage. I think the REDS would have to be promising him the opportunity to get a lot of at bats and Otani would really want a smaller town feel. I do think this kid is going to be a star, his stuff is amazing!! Will be fun to watch him in MLB where ever he winds up!!!

    • Colt Holt

      Go out, buy a house for $200k in a nice neighborhood, spend $20k furnishing it, then agree to sell it to him for the after tax proceeds of his $300k signing bonus. When he comes to town, rather than have him stay in a hotel, you can have him spend the night in the house that could be his. Let him see what Cincinnati has to offer as a home, and save him the hassle of ever having to worry about housing! Gotta get creative when you only have $300k to work with…

    • CP

      I could see him wanting to be in more of a smaller market, but is that desire worth 9.7 million dollars to him?

      Not to mention there will likely be other “smaller market” clubs that can offer a larger bonus than the Reds can currently.

      I would love to see the Reds go after this guy, but I will be very surprised if they landed him. Pleasantly surprised! But still surprised….

      • Billy

        Even if the money isn’t an issue, where do you play him? Presumably, the only way you lure him to Cincinnati is with the opportunity to pitch and hit. If he’s going to do more than DH in the interleague games, where would he play. Not 1B. So what’s left?

  7. Cguy

    Of course all this hype is just a precursor to the disappointment when another team signs him. Nonetheless, Hunter Greene, Shohei Otani, Tony Santillan, Vladimir Gutierrez, Jacob Heatherly, Scott Moss, maybe Kumar Rocker falls to 5th pick next June; that’d be a whole lotta pitching talent in the Reds future.

  8. Arnold Ziffle

    The 40 man roster purge is underway.

    The Reds outrighted RHP Asher Wojciechowski, RHP Alejandro Chacin, and RHP Nick Travieso. RHP Luke Farrell didn’t pass through waivers and was claimed by the Chicago Cubs.
    Reds 40-man roster at 36 now.

      • Arnold Ziffle

        Travieso cleared waivers, and was outrighted off of the 40-man roster to AAA Louisville. Same with Wojo and Chacin. Farrell didn’t clear waivers and was claimed by the Cubs.

      • Arnold Ziffle

        I think Travieso was on the 60-day DL. He would have had to been re-instated from it before they waived and outrighted him. That might be what you are referring to. Butoff of the 40-man and down to Louisville.

  9. Bill

    In the article, Doug stated, “Other teams could offer just over $10M if they traded for the max amount of international pool money.”

    Do any teams still have that amount of money still available? Several of the clubs that are not limited to $300K have made multiple high-dollar IFA signings in this signing period–those signings will reduce their pools. I would be interested to how much money each team has remaining to devote to an Ohtani signing.

  10. donny

    Like Tom Petty says : anything is possible. He could sign with the reds for 300,000 on a 1 year contract.

    Then be rewarded handsomely the following year for signing with the reds on a 5 year contract.

    There is nothing illegal about him living with Bob Castellini paying room and board for a dollar a month for the first year is there. WINK ! And help bring his family to the states with him. Then after 5 years when the reds can’t afford him he can choose another team to play for if he chooses. lol

    • Doug Gray

      No, he can’t. He can not sign a Major League deal. He’s signing a minor league contract, with a signing bonus, just like a draft pick.

      What can happen is he signs, then signs an extension, or new contract that buys out his arbitration years. That’s what I expect to happen, but it won’t happen until some point after his first year.

      • donny

        That’s what i meant . Sign him to a minor league deal, but pitch for the reds that year, then reward him handsomely on a 5 year contract.