Will the Baltimore Orioles Make a Run at Signing Shohei Otani?

TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 11: Designated hitter Shohei Ohtani
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 11: Designated hitter Shohei Ohtani /

Japanese baseball superstar Shohei Otani has declared he will join an MLB team for the 2018 season. Will Otani be involved in the Baltimore Orioles news this offseason?

The Baltimore Orioles should keep their eyes on Japanese slugger and pitcher Shohei Otani, who is reportedly leaving the Nippon Ham Fighters baseball team to join an MLB team for 2018, per MLB columnist Jeff Passan.

Why is it a big deal, you may ask?

Well, as headlined in The Ringer, Otani could be Noah Syndergaard and Paul Goldschmidt in one.

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Otani is only 23 years old, which means that he won’t make the same amount of money he would have if he decided to wait two more years to come to the United States.

In fact, Otani will likely be signed initially for the $20 million posting fee, plus the cost of signing a player, which will depend on the bonus given. After that, he will go through the process of making the major league minimum and then be eligible for arbitration just like other young players.

Otani will likely be a major leaguer right away. Some have called him a modern-day Babe Ruth, who hits tape measure home runs and has a 100+ mile an hour fastball.

Otani hit .322/.416/.588 with 27 home runs in 2016, and also had a 1.86 ERA while striking out 174 batters in 140 innings.

Get excited, baseball fans.

Now, this is where things get even more intriguing. Several teams that covet having Otani on their team aren’t able to spend more than $300,000 on him. Those teams are the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and San Diego Padres.

However, Otani reportedly doesn’t care all that much about money, so where he signs is a mystery.

Some think he is likely to end up in the American League, where he can be a designated hitter on days when he is not pitching. That’s a plus for the Orioles, although they currently have a designated hitter in Mark Trumbo, someone fans aren’t happy with right now.

For an excellent scouting report on Otani, check out this piece by MLBTradeRumors, who compares Otani to Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander. Elite company.

His hitting is compared to Paul O’Neill or Curtis Granderson.

A better pitcher than a hitter and a lot of people feel he may only be a pitcher in the major leagues.

But, he wants to play both ways.

Now, could he end up in Baltimore?

Well, the team has scouted him as far back as 2012, according to the Baltimore Sun. And, they do have a history of signing players from the Far East, guys like Hyun Soo Kim, Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada. Not that all of those have necessarily worked out perfectly.

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However, their method of trading international bonus slots, especially to rivals like the New York Yankees, seems to indicate they may not be in play for Otani. But, that same lack of international spending also suggests they should have a lot of money available.

This on the surface would be a perfect move for the Orioles. They can sign a young pitcher who would become their ace, and it wouldn’t cost them anywhere near as much as it would sign a free agent.

They would also have him under team control for six years.

It looks like a slam dunk.

The team believed to be in front in the Otani race is the Texas Rangers. Mainly because they have Yu Darvish, who Otani idolizes.

Guess who a free agent after this season? Yu Darvish.

Now, I don’t see Darvish coming to Baltimore, as it has been said he either wants to stay in Texas or would like to play on the West Coast.

But, the Orioles will certainly have the money for Darvish as contracts come off the books. They also would be able to afford Otani.

Adding those two to a rotation with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman would mean the team could like go with Miguel Castro, Gabriel Ynoa or someone else as the fifth starter, or sign Jeremy Hellickson or Chris Tillman to a ‘pillow’ deal, but only if it helped the organization significantly.

Now, where would Otani play offensively for the Orioles?

Well, Otani is a low average, high strikeout, high home run guy so that he would fit in well in Baltimore.

Maybe Chris Davis gets traded if someone will take on his terrible contract. More likely is that Mark Trumbo gets traded.

Otani is an outfielder by trade, but he would probably DH to help protect him from the day-to-day rigors of playing the field.

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Is it likely Shohei Otani will end up in Baltimore in 2018? Yes, I think it is. However, I believe that it will be in the visitor’s dugout, and not as a member of the Baltimore Orioles roster.

Nonetheless, we all can hope though!