Japanese sensation Shohei Otani seems to have finalized his decision to come to North America this winter and make the transition from Japanese baseball to MLB according to reports in Japan. Otani is only 23-years-old and is famed for his ability to hit and pitch extremely well. The Blue Jays are definitely interested in Otani, as a source within the club told me that eight to ten members of the Blue Jays Front Office and scouting staff have been to Japan to watch the young phenom. So, how do the Blue Jays view Otani, and is it possible that they could land him this winter?
The source made it clear that the Blue Jays are interested in him beyond due diligence, evidenced by the fact that “it is not cheap” to send 8-10 members of the organization over to Japan to scout somebody. The source continued by saying that the Blue Jays will be involved in contract talks with Otani, “unless the money gets really crazy”, adding that if allowed, he would “give [Otani] the Stanton contract for sure and sleep at night.” That’s very high praise.
Despite this not seeming like something that is Mark Shapiro’s style, “this guy is the one who is unique” said the source, continuing with “most of us have never seen anything like him at his age”.
One flaw in this might be that the Blue Jays have already used some of their bonus money, and thus won’t be able to offer Otani as much as other clubs. However, the source said that when it comes to Otani, he gets the feeling that it is “about fit and future money,” and speculates that any contract the star player signs in MLB will have a handshake agreement on a long term deal once he has played for some time in North America.
The Blue Jays’ main point of contact in Japan is Dan Evans, who the source says “has an outstanding relationship he has cultivated with the GM and President of Nippon [Ham],” the team Otani plays for currently in the NPB. Evans “has a lot of weight [in Japan], and has been working on this for at least four years,” according to the source with the Blue Jays. “[Evans] wants him badly,” he continued.
The Blue Jays are also in the midst of expanding their presence in Asia under their new Front Office. They are “indentifying and developing relationships now with the Japanese clubs for the future,” creating much more of a “process in Asia” than what existed under Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos.
The source’s report also says that Otani’s tools are all “near the top of the scale, to go along with the maturity of a 35-year-old” despite being only 23 years of age. He was also said to have “the humility of the 25th man on the bench” and be “a manager’s dream.” The club believes he is a “likely Ace and an All-Star 30/30 RF type” who would likely DH in MLB, though the source believes Otani wants to go somewhere he can play in the outfield from time to time.
The Blue Jays will likely have a couple of openings in their outfield this winter, especially in right field, so that could come into play.
In my view, the Blue Jays landing Otani seems like a big reach, but it’s exciting nonetheless to see how involved they are in the process and the strides they are making in Asia as a whole for the future.
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