If Japanese ace Shohei Otani were a free agent this offseason, “He’d be by far the best pitcher on the market,” one general manager told Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com. Considering the current class lacks front-end starters, that’s not a surprise. However, the 22-year-old right-hander would also draw plenty of interest on a robust market. Otani led the Nippon Ham Fighters to a Japan Series title this past season while recording a 1.86 ERA, 11.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 over 140 innings. The left-handed batter was also outstanding offensively, hitting .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs in 382 plate appearances, and could become a two-way star in the major leagues eventually. One GM would have no problem allowing Otani to hit on days he doesn’t pitch. “Sign me up. I think every one of the 30 teams would be in the mix,” he said. Otani has only played four years in Japan and won’t be eligible to come to the majors of his own volition until after his ninth season, but the Fighters could post him before then and receive $20MM in return from the team that wins his services. There are multiple GMs who don’t expect that to happen until 2018, though, per Bloom.
More from around baseball:
- The Rays are in position to take advantage of the lack of enticing starters on this year’s market, opines Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The club has trade candidates in a pair of righties – Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi – and southpaw Drew Smyly, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported Friday that the Rays departed this week’s GM meetings with confidence that they’d deal at least one of them. Righty Alex Cobb also holds appeal, writes Topkin, even though he pitched to an 8.59 ERA in 22 innings this year after missing all of 2015 because of Tommy John surgery. “The demand is there,” GM Erik Neander said of his pitchers. “When you have really good players, especially in an area where there is need across the league, I think it certainly plays that way.”
- The Rays’ best starter, Archer, lamented the team’s financial limitations in an interview with MLB Network Radio on Thursday. “I think in order for us to be successful, we’ve got to spend more money,” he said (via Topkin). “You look at the teams that were in contention this year and they were all around the $100-million payroll mark or more. And we’re in the $70 million payroll (range).” Archer continued, “I get it. We might not be capable of spending with the Yankees and Red Sox. But if we keep harping on it then it permeates the minds of the players. And we don’t want the players to think that we’re at any competitive disadvantage.” President of baseball operations Matt Silverman responded to Archer’s comments Friday, telling Topkin, “We share Chris’ passion. There’s no value in harping on the competitive disadvantages in baseball. It’s our reality. And it’s what helps motivate us to find new ways to win.”
- The Pirates held trade talks over the summer involving center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the longtime face of the franchise, and GM Neal Huntington has continued to field inquiries on the 30-year-old. Regarding the interested teams, Huntington told the Associated Press after the GM meetings, “They recognize that we haven’t been averse to moving guys as their contract nears expiration. It’s a part of how we believe we need to do things to continue to be competitive and continue to give ourselves a shot to win.” McCutchen has a maximum of two years left on his contract, including a $14.5MM club option in 2018.