Reds general manager Dick Williams was on hand to witness what might have been right-hander Shohei Otani’s final start in Nippon Professional Baseball, reports C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Otani didn’t disappoint, as he held the Orix Buffaloes to just two hits while racking up 10 strikeouts in a masterful shutout. Per Rosecrans, the Reds have legitimate interest in signing Otani despite the fact that they’re prohibited from signing an international amateur — and Otani does qualify as an amateur under MLB’s 2017-21 CBA despite significant pro experience in Japan — for more than $300K. Otani’s decision to leave well over $100MM on the table to jump to MLB this offseason instead of two years from now suggests that money isn’t his ultimate motivation, thus giving Cincinnati and other clubs in the international “penalty box” some degree of hope. That said, Rosecrans notes that Cincinnati is still a long shot to sign Otani, who may land in the AL where he can serve as a DH when not pitching.
Here’s more out of the NL Central …
- The Reds have decided to add a lower-level affiliate, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. The Cincinnati organization will own and operate a ballclub in the Appalachian League, taking the open slot for a team in Greeneville, Tennessee. Jumping on this opportunity was part of a longstanding effort to add another lower-level affiliate, Buchanan notes.
- As the Cardinals look to improve upon a disappointing 2017 campaign, the team will change up the coaches working with the pitching staff, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and bullpen coach Blaise Ilsley are both on the way out, with the Cards said to be seeking “a more modern approach to starter usage and bullpen deployment.” The St. Louis org says it hopes to make new hires in short order.
- This winter holds as much or more uncertainty for the Pirates, though it’s not at all clear there’ll be much roster change. Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tackles some fan questions in an interesting read. He predicts that, so long as the team doesn’t find trades for significant players, it will likely keep the same essential form as it had this year. (Side note: best wishes to Stephen as he transitions off of the beat into a new role, as he discusses in the link.)