NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Yankees are again looking to the Far East for help.
The Bombers were among MLB teams to have representatives on hand to see Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani play on Thursday for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. The Yankees have been interested in the so-called “Babe Ruth of Japan” for some time.
The performance on the mound against the SoftBank Hawks in Sapporo City wasn’t great, but the interest in the 23-year-old right-hander/outfielder remains high.
Otani, who throws right-handed and bats left-handed, has a full pitching arsenal featuring a four-seamer, forkball, slider, and curve. Scouts have compared him to a young Justin Verlander, the ace right-hander of the Detroit Tigers.
Otani was hitting .342 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 146 at-bats through Sunday.
Last year, Otani went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 140 innings on the mound and hit .322 with 22 homers and 67 RBIs in 323 at-bats.
Otani’s current team is expected to post him this offseason and reports have circulated that the right-hander has wanted to test his skills in the majors. If he does become available, the Yankees could once again find themselves battling teams like the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Texas Rangers for a top international player’s services.
According to reports, any MLB team that pays Hokkaido Nippon a $20 million fee can negotiate a contract with Otani, assuming he is posted.
The Yankees are no strangers to the Japanese market. Pitcher Hideki Irabu and 2009 World Series MVP outfielder Hideki Matsui were among those to defect to the Bronx, and Masahiro Tanaka, though struggling this season, has enjoyed a lot of success in North America.