NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Shohei Otani wants to play in the majors. The Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers figure to be competing for his services.
But don’t count out the Mets.
According to a report in the Daily News, the Mets are ready to make a run at the dual-threat Japanese star, and because his earning power will be limited due to MLB’s new collective bargaining agreement, the Amazins’ will at least have a chance of landing him.
“I don’t think there’s a downside in looking into it,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters on Wednesday from the General Manager Meetings in Orlando, Florida. “I think the only downside is creating a false set of expectations on the part of the fans, which I think have to be tempered. (Otani) could go to any one of 30 teams. Almost everybody has to be somewhat interested.”
Otani, known as the “Babe Ruth of Japan,” has been a dominant right-handed pitcher and highly productive left-handed hitter over the last five years for the Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Japan Pacific League.
In 85 career appearances, spanning 543 innings, Otani has a 2.52 ERA. He has averaged 10 strikeouts and three walks per nine innings, and has surrendered just 24 home runs.
As a hitter, the 23-year-old has batted .286 with 48 home runs and 166 RBIs in 403 games. He’s also posted a very good .358 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage.
In other words, Otani has shown that there is very little he can’t do on a diamond.
The Mets’ chances of landing him rest on a few factors. First, MLB has to reach a new posting agreement with Nippon Professional Baseball. If it doesn’t, Otani would have to somehow be grandfathered in under the previous agreement, which would include paying his Japanese team a $20 million posting fee just for the right to negotiate.
In addition, because of the CBA’s international player signing pool policy, Otani would likely be limited to signing a modest contract compared to what he could eventually earn down the road. WFAN baseball insider Jon Heyman speculated that Otani could sign a minor-league deal and then get a signing bonus between $2.5 million and $8 million. He’d then be eligible for arbitration in around three years and free agency in six years.
That should help the Mets, who reportedly hope to have a payroll at or below the $154 million it was at in 2017.
Of course, if Otani does come over, he may simply choose to play for the more high-profile team in New York or go to Boston or Los Angeles, cities that will offer him better chances to win and as good an opportunity to market himself.
The Mets are also believed to be in the market for a late-inning reliever and a first baseman. Multiple reports have indicated they have interest in free agent Carlos Santana, who played this past season with new Mets manager Mickey Callaway’s former team, the Cleveland Indians.