Toronto Blue Jays chase for Shohei Otani rings familiar

SAPPORO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 18: Starting pitcher Shohei Otani
SAPPORO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 18: Starting pitcher Shohei Otani /

Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins has said that he is taking a serious shot at incoming Japanese sensation Shohei Otani.

If you are a fan of baseball especially the Toronto Blue Jays, this is by far the worst time of the year. The playoffs have just wrapped up, the World Series Champion has been crowned and most individual awards have been handed out.

Now, however, fans can look forward towards free agency, and more importantly, what big names could land in new locations.

The big headlines going into the GM meetings have been shared between Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Otani. The former sounds certain to be moved by the rebuilding Miami Marlins, and the latter is set to begin his MLB career this upcoming season.

The man affectionately referred to as the “Japanese Babe Ruth” has played for five years with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japan Pacific League. He has become well known for playing as both a pitcher and an outfielder for the Fighters.

In 2016, Otani hit .322 on the season with 67 RBI, 65 runs, 18 doubles and 22 home runs in 104 games. In addition, he pitched 140 innings and finished with 10 wins, 174 strikeouts, a 1.86 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.

Otani has been the talk of the town in Toronto over the past few days. Although New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Texas are believed to be the front-runners for the Japanese sensation, it looks like the Blue Jays will toss their hat in the ring and make a pitch as to why Otani would be best suited in Toronto.

In an article posted by Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, Jays General Manager Ross Atkins said that he believed that Otani would be the perfect fit and also gave a glimpse at how the organization may woe him to sign.

"“I think we’re as well equipped as any organization in baseball,” Atkins said, perhaps trying to pique Otani’s interest. “Our emphasis on recovery, our emphasis on preparation, our emphasis on what it takes to realize all of your potential and understanding what that means is at the forefront. The fact we’re in the American League and do have the DH spot allows for more patience, and allows for more versatility in that arena. I can’t imagine a better fit, quite frankly.”"

"“There aren’t examples of it in the modern game, but data around recovery specific to that player, data around recovery relative to other players per position – we’re not going to have concrete research on how to have a two-way player, but to be a bit more scientific about it than subjective is a benefit to any organization that’s prepared to do that. Most importantly, the biggest piece of the equation is going to be the player in that scenario, their desires, their feedback, their inputs, in how you use that information.”"

Davidi also mentions in the article that Otani was quoted as saying he wants to be with an organization that allows him to constantly improve as a player.

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There are many different situations that baseball analysts have talked about when considering where Otani will land. Will he go to the American League, where he can pitch every fifth day and play as the designated hitter on his off days? Does the team that signs him expand to a six-man rotation to allow for more rest in between starts? Or does he choose one position and stick to it in the MLB?

The possibilities with this player are endless and unlike any other person who has come over to the MLB internationally.

This isn’t the first time the Blue Jays have been in on a Japanese player, however. They were in on Yu Darvish when the hurler made his way over to North America prior to the 2012 MLB season. After making a pitch, Darvish eventually elected to sign with the Texas Rangers. He was paid $60-million over six years.

Otani will not get to sign the big-money contract that he would have been able to a few seasons ago. With the new international player signing rules, teams can’t blow a player away with dollar amounts alone, the fit has to be right. Teams are capped at between $4.75-$5.75 million for their international signing pool.

The Blue Jays sit near the bottom in terms of dollar amount. However, according to Davidi, the Jays did free up some international cap space last season.

"The Blue Jays are on the lower end of that scale and spent heavily in July, but they acquired some pool room from the St. Louis Cardinals in a trade for minor-leaguer Lane Thomas during the summer and are believed to have slightly more than $1 million to work with right now."

Perhaps Munenori Kawasaki could be someone the Jays leverage in negotiations. The former Jays middle-infielder spoke to Nori Aoki about playing in Toronto after the Blue Jays acquired him in a trade.

It will be extremely interesting to watch how the process plays out and where Otani lands.

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What are your thoughts on Otani? Is there a realistic chance that the Blue Jays can land him and if he did where could you see him playing in the lineup? Let us know in the comments.