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.