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M's should purse Shohei Otani

18 year old Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani has announced that he hopes to be the first Japanese player to come to the MLB straight out of school. And to me, it makes perfect sense for us to pursue him extensively this offseason.

Several scouting reports have said that he can sit in the mid-to-upper 90s, with a couple different breaking balls to go along with the heat. The balls in Japan are a little smaller though, and tend to increase the velocity a bit. Yu Darvish saw his velocity decrease 3-5 mph when he came over. That being said, he stands at 6’4″ and has a great pitchers build. He should definitely be able to add velocity as he gets older and fills out a little more, which could put him back in the 94-96 range in the future.

He has drawn comparisons to Aroldis Chapman, and while I see why, I don’t think it is a great comparison. Chapman throws straight 100 mph heat, whereas Otani figures to use his breaking pitches a little more, like Japanese pitchers tend to do, and not totally rely on the fastball.

Due to the fact that he has yet to play professionally in Japan, he does not require a posting fee like other intentional free agents do. That saves a lot of money for the signing team, and the international free agent max is only $2.9 million. Teams can exceed that, but face various penalties for doing so.

There is one small setback however. He was drafted by the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese league on Thursday, and it could delay his signing date. He is not required to sign with them though, and could and will still come to the MLB this year. There seem to be conflicting reports on whether or not he has to wait until March to negotiate with MLB teams, or if that just applies to other NPL teams.

While the Mariners have not been linked to him, we have come to learn that that usually doesn’t mean a thing. It seems a team come out of nowhere and signs the big names, as seen with Prince and Pujols last year. We also know that the Mariners front office likes to keep things top secret whenever possible, and we don’t get as many rumors as other teams do.

I think our passed success with Japanese players, having signed two last year and others like Ichiro and Kaz Sasaki in the past, means we have a decent shot at getting Otani. He will most likely prefer the west coast, and might be a Mariners fan due to Ichiro or Iwakuma. Heck, that’s the reason Kawasaki came here last year, to play with Ichiro. And while Ichiro is no longer with the team, it still may mean something to Otani.

Bringing him in also makes it a little easier to part with one of the Big Three to acquire a bat. While pitching is generally referred to as the strength of the farm system, it gets a little thin after them. Having another potential #2-3 starter in the organization would make me much more open to trading Paxton, or even Hultzen and Walker in the right situation.

This move makes too much sense not to pursue as much as possible. Obviously it comes down to Shohei in the end, but there is no reason we should not be all in on such a big talent at such a reasonable price.

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Tags: Offseason Seattle Mariners Shohei Otani

  • maqman

    I agree, while he is still just a high schooler he’s more projectable than a 16-year old Latino prospect. It is also important for the M’s to retain their Japanese fan base, they provide significant revenue to the team and the city.

    • Matthias_Kullowatz

      True, but not just money! They provide significant wins to the team and the city. Ichiro, Sasaki, Johjima…that was 65 WAR sprinkled throughout 20-ish player seasons. It seems like Seattle has a strong connection with Japanese baseball, and we should continue to take advantage.

  • kazuo1030

    It might be a good decision for the M’s but Otani would have to face a fan base and reporters who don’t understand and frankly dislike Japanese players. Read any blog about Ichi or review some of the articles about him and you will find an unreasonable and unwarranted dislike. Ichi haters are a well known phenomenon. Why would Otani want that? Steve Kelley calls Ichiro “selfish, a non-team player ect.”

    • JJ Allen Keller

      I don’t think that’s true at all. Just because some people got a little fed up with Ichiro towards the end doesn’t mean everyone thinks all Japanese players are like that. Do people have problems with Iwakuma and Kawasaki? Or Johjima and Kaz in the past? We have had a good experience with all of those guys, and a good one with Ichiro until the end. Just because one Japanese player is selfish doesn’t mean they all are

    • maqman

      Your opinion on the Mariners, their fans and media is misinformed. Do you think a team with a Japanese owner would allow such behavior? Seattle is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and Ichiro was an Mariners icon who was and still is greatly admired. You evidently did not see the long standing ovation he got at Safeco Field in his first at bat as a Yankee. That doesn’t mean that some individuals did not have a negative view of some of his actions. Some people booed Babe Ruth. If you equate some blog trolls with average Mariners fans you don’t have the correct opinion.

  • Nick harris

    Even if Ichiro was “selfish” he deserved to be. He was one of the greatest Mariners of all time and for the past 10 years he has not had much help he deserved a chance at a championship. Unfortunately the chance he was given was in New York. I think this was a great article and i would love to continue seeing Japanese stars come over to Seattle!

    • mat

      I agree. He did his job, but when they didn’t provide a good #2 hitter behind him; then everyone got on his case. He had afew years when they were hitiing him around.