Though Japanese star Shohei Otani is generating a lot of discussion in MLB circles after his incredible two-way campaign in the NPB, he’s not a realistic candidate to come over this winter, as J.J. Cooper of Baseball America explains. For one thing, his Japanese club — the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters — has no incentive to make him available, since they are capped at a $20MM transfer fee that they’d be sure to have available in future years. And Otani himself has good reason to wait, because at just 22 years of age he’d be subject to MLB’s current international bonus rules. While that could change if the CBA is modified, as things stand his signing would be subject to a 100% tax on the amount by which a bonus exceeds a team’s signing pools. Given his anticipated value, that would represent an enormous hit to his earning capacity. Plus, ten teams — the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Diamondbacks, Angels, Dodgers, Cubs, Giants, Royals and Blue Jays — wouldn’t even realistically be able to pursue him, since they are banned from giving out more than $300K to international players in this signing period. Otani pitched 140 innings with a 1.86 ERA, 11.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in NPB this season and also batted .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers in 382 plate appearances as a DH. In previous years, he’s also played in the outfield on days when he is not pitching.
More notes on the international scene…
- Major League Baseball has tendered a pair of status checks on Korean left-handers Kwang-hyun Kim and Woo-chan Cha, according to Jee-ho Yoo if Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. The Korea Baseball Organization informed MLB that both Kim and Cha are unrestricted free agents and free to sign with any domestic or international team. As Yoo notes, the agreement between MLB and KBO stipulates that MLB teams interested in signing Korean players must go through the status check via league offices before pursuing a KBO free agent. We’ve touched on both lefties here, and both could be viable options for big league clubs in a thin market for pitching. Of the scouts I’ve spoken to regarding Korean free agents, Kim draws stronger reviews, and some believe Cha may be better suited for ’pen work. Kim, 28, posted his third straight season with a sub-4.00 ERA this past year — no small feat in the hitter-friendly KBO. The SK Wyverns hurler worked to a 3.80 ERA with 7.7 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 in 137 innings but missed some time with a midseason elbow issue. The 29-year-old Cha, meanwhile, had a 4.38 ERA with 6.9 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9 in 141 2/3 innings.
- Also via Yoo’s piece, left-hander Hyeon-jong Yang isn’t yet sure whether he’ll pursue opportunities in Major League Baseball for a second time. The 28-year-old southpaw was posted two winters ago and drew interest from the Twins and Rangers, but his Korean team, the Kia Tigers, didn’t accept the top bid for his services (presumably deeming it too low to part with their top pitcher). Yang has a 3.02 ERA with 7.2 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9 in his past 373 KBO innings, though he was significantly better in 2015 than in 2016.
- Former Padres/Astros/Rangers righty Anthony Bass announced on Twitter this week that after spending a season in Japan, he’s eyeing a return to the Majors. Bass, 29, posted a 3.65 ERA with a 71-to-47 K/BB ratio in 103 2/3 innings as a teammate of Otani with the Fighters en route to an NPB Championship this past season. In 278 1/3 innings at the big league level, Bass has a 4.40 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 47.8 percent ground-ball rate. Bass made 14 starts against 23 relief appearances in Japan and has also started 18 big league games and 87 minor league games, so he could try to pitch himself as a rotation option in a market that is devoid of quality starters.
- Right-hander Joe Wieland, who has appeared in the Majors with the Padres, Dodgers and Mariners, signed a one-year deal with Japan’s DeNa Yokohama BayStars last week, the team announced (Japanese link via Sanspo). Wieland will take home $825K, per the Sanspo report. Wieland appeared in one game with Seattle last year and has a 6.32 ERA in 52 2/3 Major League innings overall. The former fourth-round pick had Tommy John surgery back in 2012 early in his Padres career and was never able to fully recover and establish himself in the Majors. He’ll head to Japan for his age-27 campaign with the opportunity to earn significantly more than he would’ve were to have spent the bulk of the 2017 campaign in Triple-A once again.
As incredible as it would be to see a two way star, I don’t know that any MLB team is actually going to do that with someone in today’s climate.
They want focused roles. And he is probably a better pitcher than hitter (his 2015 offensive line wasn’t as impressive)
But it would be awesome to see
Yep. I agree, though he would be more valuable to an NL team given that there’s no DH. I think the occasional spot start in left is reasonable, too, but people need to calm down thinking he’s just going to come over and pitch every fifth day and play the field the other four. I also think it’s ridiculous the amount of money he’s likely to get, but that’s especially important because no team is going to let their 250 to 300 million pitcher play that often outside of the playoffs.
Hmm diaagree that he’s more valuable in the NL. In the AL he could DH the day or two after pitching, and the day before, however he and the team wanted. No team is going to invest that kind of money in an arm and have him throw from the OF the day after being the starting pitcher. In the AL you can choose not to use a DH and bat him anyway, in the NL you’d forego probably 2 days of his bat between starts outside of a pinch hitting role.
In the AL, he could play everyday because of the DH
You would never want to forego the DH in the AL, even with a good hitting pitcher. Because once you go to the bullpen, the pitcher’s spot comes up in the lineup and AL teams aren’t built to have enough pinch- hitters if that spot comes up a couple times.
didn’t realize you can elect not to use the DH, but that thinking is still a little flawed because that means your team’s DH needs to be so bad that Otani should be starting over him.
Well if he could hit anywhere near as well as he did last year in Japan, it’s not a stretch to think he would be better than some teams’ DHs.
True, but still a big if. We have seen many Japanese stars come over and fail at the plate. I just think it’s more of a novelty thought at this point. They aren’t as considerate with their players in Japan from what I’ve seen as entertainment is often more important than winning a championship and it was one thing when guys like Micah Owings did similar things because he was an average pitcher who wasn’t earning much, but it’s different when you’re investing in a player to basically be your ace for the next decade.
That’s a huge if. Nobody ever comes over from Japan and hits as well as they did over there. It’s the other way around.
Luken Baker has the potential in the future
He’s not pitching this season, so it seems unlikely.
The Orix Buffaloes are looking to sign pitchers Phil Coke and Matt West on one-year deals, via (http://www.hochi.co.jp/baseball/npb/20161113-OHT1T50299.html), results will soon be known before the end of the month, at the earliest. Same with the Hanshin Tigers and former Rangers pitcher Roman Mendez, as both are currently discussing a one-year deal via (http://www.sanspo.com/baseball/news/20161111/tig16111105050003-n2.html). Meanwhile, former Montreal Expo player Tomo Ohka is trying to make an MLB comeback as a knuckleballer, via (http://fan-interference.com/2016/11/13/40-yr-old-tomokazu-ohka-trying-to-make-an-mlb-comeback-as-a-knuckleballer/).
Former Detroit Tigers infielder/utility player, Danny Worth, just signed with the SK Wyverns of the KBO on a one-year deal worth an estimated 817 million Won (700,000 USD) in annual salary, via (http://m.sports.naver.com/kbaseball/news/read.nhn?oid=477&aid=0000053719).
Bass to Angels calling it
Bass to become a teammate of Trout? Sounds fishy to me.
Haha made my day
If only they could get Tim Salmon back.
Ok, I’ll take the bait…add Mike Carp…and I’m angling for Bill Fischer as pitching coach..
The angling thing took me a few seconds.
add catfish hunter as well lol
Don’t forget AJ Pollock. Does Jeff “The Shark” Samardzija count? Send ’em all to the Marlins once the trades are complete.
What is the point of the $20 million posting fee limit? If it’s simply a means of cost control to limit money flowing to Japanese teams, then that seems not smart for baseball.
i’ve really never understood it and i’ve never seen a good explanation for why the japanese teams agreed to it
the only vaguely possible idea i’ve seen was someone who suggested that it might actually be quietly designed to keep the very best players in japan
but that was pure speculation
To make the Japanese market more competitive in the MLB. It’s similar to bans that apply to teams in the current CBA.
It’s much better for the players coming over via the posting system. It not only allows teams to offer the player more of the money they’re willing to pay, it also allows the player some (though limited) choice to where they sign.
Ok, but at the same time, it forces maximum value players to stay in Japan until their final year of posting eligibility (because there’s no other incentive for the team to post a maximum-value player early, unless they really fear an injury), and it still doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of the MLB itself, which is more what I’m getting at
Right. I can kind of understand that for the NPB, as an exodus of quality Japanese talent would seem to be bad for the league, even if the cash flow is best for the player and team in question, but I thought that the MLB proposed it, and measures to keep talent out of the MLB don’t really make sense to me
It was proposed so big market/money teams (I’m looking at you, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers) couldn’t keep signing all the big stars coming out of Japan. Basically any time a big player was posted, the Yankees and Red Sox were automatically considered favorites because they could throw more money at the team and have exclusive negotiating rights. Now, more teams can hop into a sweepstakes and while the player can still sign with whoever is going to give them the biggest contract, it also gives the player some flexibility as to where he might want to go.
Either way though, those big-market teams can afford to dominate the Japanese market if they so choose, given that they still have the flexibility to simply outbid the field after paying the posting fee, so that doesn’t seem to be an effective deterrent
I love these international notes throughout the offseason! I like to be kept up to date on MLB players signing overseas.
Would Otani actually make it as an elite two-way player in the MLB? I don’t know… I think the big question is whether or not he’d be productive enough as a hitter to take a significant number of at-bats away from someone else. Given that Japanese hitters seem to have a much rougher go of the MLB jump than Japanese pitchers, do we think that he’d be able to put the work in to continually adapt to MLB pitching? I don’t know. If not, I think teams would just as soon keep him on the mound… they wouldn’t invest much time in his hitting if it’s just going to be a novelty.
That said, I hope he comes over here and makes it happen! It would be really cool to see a guy pull that off in a meaningful fashion here.
Next Steve Nebraska? I hope braves can sign him next winter!