Last week the agent for Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani sent a request to all Major League Baseball teams asking for information from them. Here’s what the report was requesting:

Balelo’s memo asks for a team to evaluate Ohtani’s talent as a pitcher and as a hitter; to explain its player development, medical training and player performance philosophies and facilities; describe its minor league and spring training facilities; to detail resources for Ohtani’s cultural assimilation into the team’s city; to demonstrate a vision for how Ohtani could integrate into the team’s organization; and to tell Ohtani why the team is a desirable place to play.

Each team was asked to provide its answers in both languages as soon as possible. Clubs were told not to include any financial terms of a possible contract.

Jon Morosi of MLB Network and Fox Sports reported in the last hour that the Cincinnati Reds had formally responded to the request.

There’s nothing really surprising with this. Of course the Reds sent in a response. They would be foolish not to have sent in a response. The more interesting part would be what was in their response. Here is what I would try to sell him on in the various categories:

Evaluate Shohei Ohtani’s talent as a pitcher and a hitter

This is an easy one. I can’t imagine your pitch would be much different here than other teams. Ohtani is one of the best pitchers in the world when it comes to pure stuff. He’s dominated in Japan, posting a career 2.52 ERA with 624 strikeouts in 543.0 innings. The strikeout rate is nearly 50% better than the league average for his career, and he’s done that at ages 18-22.

At the plate you’re looking at a guy with big time power and an ability to hit for a high average as he’s shown the last two seasons in Japan. And he’s already had success at a high level despite a young age. The expectation is for him to continue to grow and get better with age across the board with star potential with the bat in his hands.

Detail resources for Shohei Ohtani’s cultural assimilation into the city

This is a tough on. Cincinnati, as I noted the other day, has a small Japanese-American population. With that said, the Reds could focus on how they have helped others assimilate to the city. Using both Aroldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias as examples. They both came from Cuba, which would seem to be a much tougher cultural assimilation than coming from Japan. While the language barrier was likely easier for those two than it would be for Shohei Ohtani, that’s probably the only thing that is easier. Coming from Cuba, the concept of having money was relatively foreign. The technological differences were massive. Regular day-to-day life was very different. Coming from Japan, those things are relatively the same.

Demonstrate a vision for how Shohei Ohtani could integrate into the organization and why the Reds are a desirable team to play with

This is both easy and tough. It’s a tough sell to say that joining the Reds is going to put you on a winning team. At least if you’re trying to compare yourself with the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs or Red Sox of the world. Since that’s a tough sell, I would focus on a different strategy here.

The selling point that I would focus on is the young core of the Cincinnati Reds moving forward. The pitching staff led by he and Luis Castillo will be together for the next six seasons, through both of their prime years. They’ve got big time arms as well with guys like Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson, Tyler Mahle, Amir Garrett, Cody Reed, Jackson Stephens – and the farm system has guys like Tony Santillan, Hunter Greene and Vladimir Gutierrez coming up behind them. You can grow along with these pitchers.

I would also look to sell him that the core on the position side is there, too. You will have an emerging All-Star caliber Eugenio Suarez at third base, a Gold Glove catcher to work with on the mound in Tucker Barnhart, the best hitter alive in Joey Votto over at first base and the farm system is alive and well. Jesse Winker came up as a rookie last year and put up strong offensive numbers. Nick Senzel is on the verge of the Major League as one of the top prospects in baseball right now. The core of this team, outside of Joey Votto, is all in the mid-20’s and under control. It’s a team that could grow together and be together for quite a while.

Then you sell Shohei Ohtani on the ballpark. On the mound you figure that half of his starts will come at home. That’s not exactly ideal. But, it also means a majority of his time at the plate will also come at home since he’ll get at-bats as the pitcher. You also sell him on a plan that would allow him to get plenty of at-bats as a non-pitcher. During interleague play, he could be the designated hitter. In games against other National League teams he could be a pinch hitting option nearly every day. Maybe you even suggest he could get a start once a week in the outfield – though, I wouldn’t make this offer, it wouldn’t surprise me if some teams would (though I don’t know that they would follow through with it). Perhaps get creative and offer to let him bat 1st or 2nd for away games, then replace him in the bottom of the inning defensively, allowing him to bat almost every day.

As for selling him on Cincinnati, it’s not going to be easy. The organization has never had a Japanese player. They are literally the only Major League team that hasn’t. But, perhaps you can use that as a selling point that he could be the first. And that it could make him something everlasting because of it. Share with him the rich history of the organization: The first professional team, the incredible Hall of Fame the team has at Great American Ballpark, the way the city can embrace the Reds, the fact that they have an Opening Day parade and basically shut down the city for it, just to celebrate baseball being back. Most other teams can’t make one of those statements, much less all of them. If the rumors are to be believed that Shohei Ohtani is reserved in nature, then selling him on a “midwest’ city that isn’t all “hustle-and-bustle” could be beneficial. There’s less media pressure here than in Los Angeles or New York. There’s next to no paparazzi to deal with like you could see in some of the larger markets.

There were also requests about the teams medical training. I simply can’t begin to get into that. I don’t have the kind of knowledge required to do that. The minor league and spring training facilities probably don’t differ much from what anyone else is selling. But, I made my pitch as best as I could with the areas I felt comfortable with above. What did I miss? Would would you do differently?

23 Responses

  1. Colorado Red

    Sell him on the challenge to pitching at GABP.
    Also have having a shut down closure.

    Reply
  2. Billy

    Shin Soo Choo isn’t Japanese, but I had the impression that he was well liked in his brief time in Cincinnati. If you could focus on Asian cultural adjustment instead of specifically dealing with Japanese cultural adjustment, perhaps there would be some lessons learned from Choo’s time with the club that would serve beneficial.

    Reply
  3. Piggly Wiggly

    I’d start with what you have. There is much there to think about. A Japanese version of Fernando-mania in Cincinnati would breathe some fresh air into a musty organization. Every time he pitches it will be near the top of the national TV sports telecasts.
    The opportunity of endorsements for income over and beyond what his first MLB salaries are going to be will help offset any $$ disadvantaged team in Cincinnati’s situation. There should be some opportunities in Cincinnati and national deals that could help Cincinnati in their bid.
    Many Japanese baseball fans are rabid. Tourism opportunities with Kings Island with commercials back home in Japan. Some P&G products might need a new ad face here in the US and/or in Japan. Tide detergent anyone? Maybe Big Bob can have him pedal bananas, apples, and avocados. Maybe a Japanese food section on the team spread before and after games.
    Growing with a team on the rise can be a very appealing aspect with players. Not so with player agents though. That is why this is certainly a unique situation.

    Reply
    • victor vollhardt

      When Josh Hamilton was here (and every other place he went) he was given “special” treatment. Now to be fair this was because of his off the field problems and his past (turned out to be his future as well), but no team needs one guy who will be above all others. Even though it would not be his fault–I believe (as it was with Hamilton ) it will cause resentment. And If the Reds have the 20 million for the posting fee then I believe that money would be better spent on a couple or three MLB players either via trade or free agent signing. Most important fact —-only an American League team(with the DH) can make full use of this player’s two way abilities and even then you won’t get a “-full time” player as he would DH for three days and off one day to prepare to pitch–pitch one day–then off another day before going back to DH. Maybe the team needs to make a “show of interest” for publicly purposes and that’s OK, but if they are serious about this move then they are out of touch with reality.

      Reply
    • rick in boise

      When Honda came to the Marysville area, they mentioned Kings Island & Cedar Point as a significant attraction (that and all the golf courses).

      (We also promised them the rail spur to the Honda site that got ripped out because those guys didn’t know of the hush-hush negotiations, lol)

      Reply
  4. The Duke

    Love that they are doing their due diligence. A snowballs chance in hell it happens.

    Reply
    • Colorado Red

      You either Love Gold Star/Skyline Chili or hate them.
      My mother hated them. I miss them greatly.
      Will buy a case when I visit my family for Christmas.

      Reply
  5. Greenfield Red

    The one advantage I think the Reds could show him would be to pull off a trade of Iglasias that would bring in a haul of young talent that he, as a 23 year old, could have a multi year championship contender built around. He could be the big man on campus to a 5 year run of greatness.

    Reply
    • Hingle McCringleberry

      Do you really think this organization can pull that off? Sure they’ll make a trade, but expect nothing but c and d rated players in return.

      Reply
  6. Andy

    I saw a really outside the box idea, and I can’t remember where, but I loved it. Let him bat lead off in every road game he’s not pitching, then replace him with Hamilton in Bottom of 1st inning. 60ab? Start DH vs AL. 30ab? Available as PH home games, 50ab? 30 starts as pitcher, 80ab? (More if he hits at top of lineup?) We’re up to ~200 plate appearances. Is that enough?

    Reply
    • asinghoff

      One big problem is that you immediately lose a bench guy that you might need at some point later in the game.

      Reply
      • Colt Holt

        How does that lose a bench guy? Do you usually consider starting pitchers to be bench players?

      • Doug Gray

        You don’t lose a bench guy at all because you are using a pitcher there, not one of your backups.

    • Doug Gray

      Let’s just rename the city: Cincohtani (pronounce since-ohtani).

      Done deal. Lock it up.

      Reply
  7. Billy

    I just had a crazy thought on luring Ohtani, and it could be revolutionary for MLB…

    Suppose the Reds offered to make Ohtani their Friday night pitcher. This would provide him some comfort, as it would keep him pitching on the once a week cycle he’s already familiar with in Japan. That would be good for him managing his routine. Obviously, this opens up questions about what to do in the rotation. This is where the Reds could really apply some out of the box thinking.

    One possibility is to go to a 6/7 man rotation. I think that’s a bad idea, but if there was a team with a bunch of starting pitching candidates, this Reds team has it. If you did want to go this direction, you’d be a couple of arms short in the bullpen. You could make up for that some by having Ohtani also being a bat for you on off days. Additionally though, you could have starters pitch in relief mid-week to keep their innings up and to ease the burden on the bullpen. Hard to say how this would shake out, but if the result was that your starters gave you 6 innings once a week and 1 inning in a relief outing once a week, that’s over 1100 innings split between 7 pitchers. (The most innings pitched by starters this year was 951, albeit with a 5-man rotation.) If your better pitchers throw more innings, that’s a good thing.

    Another possibility, one that the sabermetric community would swoon over, would be to deploy all the rest of your pitchers in short outings. Have two “starting” pitchers each day lined up to work one time through the lineup, and then turn the game over to the bullpen for the rest of the way. With this scheme, if you really like Castillo, and want him to throw more innings, you have the option of using him more frequently or you could deploy him like Ohtani, and just give him a day of the week.

    However you work it, I like this approach. The one thing we know about Ohtani is that, in trying to excel on the mound and at the plate, he wants to revolutionize the game. Present him with evidence that there’s a shift afoot, and that the game is moving more and more toward shorter outings for starters and more specialized bullpen usage, and tell him he can be that face that ushers MLB into an entirely new era. I think that would be a novel approach, and it might leave the game better off if it is executed well.

    Reply

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