Thoughts after the Yankees miss out on Shohei Ohtani

At least I can stop looking for Ohtani photos now. (AP)
At least I can stop looking for Ohtani photos now. (AP)

The first round of Shohei Ohtani cuts were announced last night. The Yankees were among them. Brian Cashman confirmed Ohtani’s camp told him he will not sign with the Yankees. Sucks. Ohtani was reportedly impressed by New York’s sales pitch, but is said to be prefer a West Coast team. Jon Heyman says Ohtani’s agents implored him to give the Yankees a longer look, but no dice. What can you do? Anyway, some thoughts.

1. Of course I’m disappointed the Yankees missed out on Ohtani, but I’m not crushed, weirdly. I thought I would be. On a scale of zero to wow the Yankees are about to trade for Cliff Lee, I’m at about 0.25 Cliff Lees right now. That’s my disappointment level. Maybe that’s because I’ve mellowed out with age. Or maybe because I wasn’t planning the offseason around Ohtani, and because I always knew the level financial playing field meant Ohtani’s personal preferences would drive his decision, and I had no idea what those preferences are. He’s not the first Japanese-born player who wants to play on the West Coast and he won’t be the last. It stinks. Ohtani is fun as hell and I was hoping the Yankees would add him to their very fun team. It’s a bummer, and yet I don’t feel like this is the end of the world. I wish Ohtani well, but if he wants to sign with the Mariners, then get outpitched by Masahiro Tanaka and lose to the Yankees in Game Seven of the ALCS one of these years, I’ll allow it.

2. What are the Yankees missing out on in Ohtani? A potential impact player, in the simplest terms. There’s a natural tendency to say “he sucks anyway” whenever your favorite team misses out on a player, but Ohtani’s potential is significant. I’m skeptical he’ll be an impact hitter — in last week’s chat I said I think Ohtani will be a full-time pitcher no later than 2020 — but his upside on the mound is considerable. Upper-90s heat with two swing-and-miss secondary pitches (slider, splitter) is no joke. This was a 23-year-old potential ace-caliber pitcher available for nothing more than a $3.5M bonus and a minor league contract. How often do you get a chance to acquire this type of player on those terms? Basically never. This was a big missed opportunity. The Yankees didn’t do anything wrong! We can’t blame them. It just sucks to miss out on such a young and potentially great player.

3. The Yankees are definitely going to spend that $3.5M in international bonus money elsewhere now. They didn’t trade Matt Wotherspoon and Yefry Ramirez for nothing! In all seriousness, that money is going somewhere. The current scouting reports are hardly glowing, but Kevin Maitan is the big name out there now that he’s no longer with the Braves. All those other Braves prospects are out there waiting to be signed too. The Yankees can spend that $3.5M on them. Also, keep in mind the Yankees have been connected to outfielder Raimfer Salinas and catcher Antonio Cabello for weeks now, so they’re probably going to wrap up deals with them soon. Salinas and Cabello are two of the best international prospects still on the market now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees sign Salinas, Cabello, and Maitan now that they’re out on Ohtani. Point is, that international bonus money is going somewhere. I wish it were Ohtani, but better the other guys than nowhere.

4. So what do the Yankees do now? Well, if you’re hoping they turn around and make a big move like signing Yu Darvish or trading for Giancarlo Stanton, I would advise you not to hold your breath. For starters, the Yankees don’t operate like that anymore. They don’t make knee jerk reactionary moves. Secondly, the financial terms of these moves are not even in the same state, let alone the same ballpark. We’re talking about a player at the league minimum and players on large contracts, whether it’s Stanton or some free agent. The plan to get under the luxury tax threshold is still in effect — that’s what made Ohtani so appealing, he could have so much impact at so little cost — and the Yankees won’t jeopardize that. They’ll look for pitching depth because they always do that, and, if anything, they might now look for a lower cost bat to take some DH at-bats after losing out on Ohtani. That’s something they can wait to do later in the offseason though, when players who are still unsigned start to get desperate, a la Chris Carter last year. There are always bargains to be had in January and February. Is a big move possible? Of course, these are still the Yankees. I just don’t see them making a big move in response to losing out on Ohtani. It is entirely possible their biggest move this winter will be re-signing CC Sabathia.

5. On the bright side, at least Ohtani was nice enough to let teams know they are out of the running early in the process rather than string them along. He could’ve easily summoned the Yankees to Los Angeles to make an in-person sales pitch just to hear them out, but no, he let them know not to bother. Ohtani did that for selfish reasons — he only has a 21-day window to pick a team, so why waste time on a team you know you’re not signing with? — but it helps the Yankees. They can put the Ohtani pursuit behind them and move on with the rest of their offseason. No need to wait around for him to make a decision. Now that we know Aaron Boone will be the next manager and Ohtani will sign elsewhere, I think we can say the biggest offseason stories for the Yankees are complete. Onward.

Cashman confirms Shohei Ohtani will not sign with Yankees

(Masterpress/Getty)
(Masterpress/Getty)

Shohei Ohtani will not sign with the Yankees. At a charity event tonight, Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty and Bryan Hoch that Ohtani informed the Yankees he will not sign with them. Ohtani’s camp said the Yankees made a great presentation, but ultimately, he wants to play in a smaller market and on the West Coast. The Red Sox and Twins have also been ruled out, reports Ken Rosenthal.

The Yankees had been considered the favorite to sign Ohtani for weeks now because they have as much international bonus money available as any team ($3.5M), also because they have a great young roster loaded with talent. It looks like they’ll be a World Series contender for years. Ohtani could’ve joined the rotation, taken aim at the short porch between starts as the DH, and had a great chance to win. Alas.

Because he is only 23, Ohtani is subject to the international hard cap, meaning the Yankees could not blow him away with an offer. They couldn’t simply continue adding millions to their offer until he said yes. The financial playing field was level, so Ohtani’s personal preferences are going to drive his decision, and his preference is to play on the West Coast. He has every right to make that decision.

Cashman confirmed the Yankees were planning to pursue Ohtani aggressively, but that is off the table now, so they’ll move on to other business. That $3.5M in international bonus money will go to other prospects, maybe the guys the Braves lost, and the Yankees will look for rotation help (CC Sabathia?) and another bat for the lineup. At least Ohtani didn’t string them along. The Yankees can move on with their offseason now.

On to the Next

(Getty)
(Getty)

The Yankees have made their choice, naming Aaron Boone their next manager. Mike offered his thoughts here, so take a look. My thoughts? Cool? I guess? I wanted Hensley Meulens for a variety of reasons, but I can’t really complain about the Boone hire–or any, really. Brian Cashman and the rest of the front office have bought themselves a lot of credit over the past two years of baseball and I trust their decision making. Would I have preferred a candidate with experience? Sure. But I wasn’t in that room conducting the interview.

For whatever reason, the Yankees think Boone is the best man for the job, and I’ve got no real choice but to trust in that. I understand some of the immediate concerns fans had on Friday when news came down that Boone got the job. Here’s how I allay those concerns, internally at least. While I don’t recall Boone ever being a proponent of advanced analytics and the like on his ESPN broadcasts, there’s no way the Yankees would have even interviewed–let alone hired–him if they weren’t confident in his ability to understand and explain those things. He’s completely new at this, for sure, but Boone will be backed up by a fully stocked and intelligent baseball operations department. And, this isn’t the 1950’s; Boone won’t be making decisions on his own. The baseball ops team will make sure he’s well-informed and well-ready to make the right call on the field.

As for the on the field things, again, it’s 2017; tactics in baseball are fairly uniform at this point. The overwhelming likelihood is that Boone’s tactics look very similar to Joe Girardi‘s. What matters is the stuff behind the scenes. Clearly, the Yankees feel that Boone can handle that stuff better than Girardi could have going forward after his long tenure. We talk mostly about the on-field stuff because it’s what we see. But the stuff we don’t see–communication, interaction, etc–is where the job is its hardest. Boone wouldn’t have gotten the nod if the organization weren’t confident he could handle that heavy lifting.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The secondary effect of the manager situation being wrapped up is that the Yankees can move on to other pressing business. First up, they’ve got to sew up Cashman’s contract. He’s been reportedly working on a handshake agreement, but it’d be nice to see the agreement made official. I wonder if this contract will come with a promotion to president of baseball ops with someone else moving into the GM role, but if that hasn’t happened for Cash yet, I don’t think it will this time.

Then there’s the roster, specifically the pitching rotation. And even more specifically, Shoehei Ohtani. While I’m sure the pitch would’ve been good either way, having a manager in place when presenting to Ohtani can’t hurt. It shows the ducks are in a row, at least for the next few years, and that the team has a clear direction in which it’s going. Despite its present success, this team is all about the future. Boone and Cashman are obviously a big part of that, and Ohtani can be, too. It’s impossible to know what he wants in a team until he signs and comes out and says it, but the Yankees seem like a great fit.

The offseason in general has been more of a cold stove than a hot one, mostly thanks to Ohtani and the Giancarlo Stanton trade discussions. For the Yankees, that’s been doubly so thanks to the relatively long search for a manager that’s now over. Now that that’s done, on to the next.

Quick Notes: Managerial Search, Shohei Ohtani, Non-Tenders

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

This morning Brian Cashman took a practice run rappelling down the Landmark Building in Stamford as part of the annual Heights & Lights Festival. He also spoke to reporters and passed along two important pieces of information, one surprising and one not so surprising. Here’s the latest, via all the wonderful reporters in attendance.

Managerial interviews are over

First the surprising news: Cashman said the Yankees will not interview any more managerial candidates. The job will go to one of the six men they’ve interviewed: Carlos Beltran, Aaron Boone, Hensley Meulens, Rob Thomson, Eric Wedge, and Chris Woodward. (Mark Feinsand says a clear frontrunner emerged during the interview process.) Furthermore, Cashman said there will not be a second round of interviews in Tampa. The next step is making a final recommendation to Hal Steinbrenner and that’ll be that.

Also, interestingly enough, Cashman said he consulted Alex Rodriguez several times during the process. A-Rod didn’t want the job — “He never expressed interest in any way, shape, or form,” said Cashman — but Cashman said he got Alex’s insight on the various candidates. A-Rod and Beltran are super close. The fact this is all suddenly wrapping up, with the second round of interviews canceled, right after Beltran’s interview is intriguing. Coincidence? Maybe. But intriguing. Anyway, a poll:

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Yankees will pursue Shohei Ohtani

Now the not-so-surprising news: the Yankees will indeed pursue Ohtani, Cashman confirmed. They are prepared to let him both pitch and hit, which seems like a prerequisite for signing him. Here’s a snippet of what Cashman said about Ohtani:

“It’s a big stage here and it’s meant to have the best talent to play on it. Ohtani represents the next great talent that is available in the world of baseball. This stage is made for players like this … This is an impact type player that we feel would make us better. I think we have a great situation going on here with a lot of young players … I think he’d be a perfect fit for us.”

Ohtani was officially posted earlier today, and already there are some wild rumors floating around. He’s narrowed his list down to three teams! He doesn’t want to play with another Japanese star! I get the sense we’re going to hear lots more stuff like that over the next three weeks. For now, all we know for certain is that Ohtani has been posted, and Cashman said the Yankees will pursue him.

Yankees tender all eligible players

One last quick note: the Yankees tendered all their eligible players contracts prior to today’s deadline, the team announced. Can’t say I’m surprised. Austin Romine was the only real non-tender candidate and I never thought the Yankees would actually non-tender him, and they didn’t, so there you go.

Nippon Ham Fighters officially post Shohei Ohtani

(AP)
(AP)

Shohei Ohtani is officially on his way to the big leagues. MLB and the Nippon Ham Fighters announced today that Ohtani has indeed been posted, and now has 21 days to negotiate and sign with one of the 30 MLB clubs. Ohtani has been grandfathered in under the old posting agreement, so whichever team signs him will pay a $20M release fee to the (Ham) Fighters. MLB says the 21-day window closes at 11:59pm ET on December 22nd.

MLB, NPB, and the MLBPA agreed to a new posting system last week, and it was ratified today, paving the way for Ohtani to be posted. The union used Ohtani’s posting as leverage to get a more favorable deal for future Japanese players coming to MLB. Now more of the money goes to the player rather than his former team in Japan. Would’ve been cool if the MLBPA had fought harder for their future members during Collective Bargaining Agreement talks, but better late than never, I guess.

The 23-year-old Ohtani is pretty much the coolest baseball player in the world, a 100 mph throwing dinger hitting machine. Ankle and quad injuries limited him to 231 plate appearances (.332/.403/.540) and 25.1 innings (3.20 ERA) this season. Last season, when fully healthy, Ohtani hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers in 382 plate appearances, and struck out 174 with a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings.

Last week Ohtani and his agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, started the recruiting process by giving the 30 teams homework. They asked for a written report with all sorts of information, including evaluations of Ohtani as a player, their player development philosophies and facilities, available resources to help him transition to life in the United States, all sorts of things. I took a crack at putting together the Yankees’ report.

Because he is still only 23, Ohtani is subject to the international hard cap and can only sign a standard minor league contract. The Yankees reportedly have $3.5M in international bonus money available, slightly behind the Rangers ($3.535M) for the most in baseball. MLB will come down hard on any attempted hard cap circumvention, such as a handshake agreement on a contract extension. The Braves penalties announced last week were timed to be a warning shot. Do anything improper with Ohtani and you’ll get hit hard.

It should be noted Ohtani is currently in the United States. He was spotted in Los Angeles earlier this week. I have to think Ohtani and Balelo will meet face-to-face with several teams during his 21-day negotiating window, and possibly visit some cities as well. When Masahiro Tanaka was posted, he went to Los Angeles and had interested teams meet him there to make their in-person sales pitch. He didn’t visit any cities. I suppose Ohtani could do the same.

The Yankees will reportedly pursue Ohtani aggressively, which makes perfect sense. He’s very talented and also young, so he’d fight right in with their youth movement. Ohtani is five months younger than Luis Severino, for reference. The Yankees can slot Ohtani right into their rotation and let him serve as the DH between starts, and he’d join a strong young core that is ready to win right now. The consensus seems to be that the Yankees are the favorites to sign Ohtani, but who knows. All they can do is make their pitch and hope for the best.

Shohei Ohtani wants to be wooed in writing, so let’s take a crack at putting together the Yankees’ recruiting letter

(Getty)
(Getty)

At some point soon, likely by the end of the weekend, the Nippon Ham Fighters will post ace-slash-slugger Shohei Ohtani for the 30 MLB clubs. He’ll have 21 days — not the usual 30 days — to select a new team because the MLBPA doesn’t want him holding up the free agent market. The fact Ohtani won’t have to negotiate a contract will help expedite things. The Collective Bargaining Agreement limits him to a minor league deal.

Although Ohtani has not yet been posted, he and his representatives started the courting process by giving the 30 MLB teams homework. According to Ronald Blum, last week Ohtani and his agent Nez Balelo asked teams for written reports explaining why he should sign with them. Unusual! But whatever. Here are the details, from Blum:

Balelo’s memo asks for a team to evaluate Ohtani’s talent as a pitcher and as a hitter; to explain its player development, medical training and player performance philosophies and facilities; to describe its minor league and spring training facilities; to detail resources for Ohtani’s cultural assimilation into the team’s city; to demonstrate a vision for how Ohtani could integrate into the team’s organization; and to tell Ohtani why the team is a desirable place to play.

Each team was asked to provide its answers in both languages as soon as possible. Clubs were told not to include any financial terms of a possible contract.

I assume Ohtani and Balelo will use the reports to whittle down their list of potential destinations before meeting with clubs face-to-face, possibly at the Winter Meetings in Orlando in two weeks. If Ohtani is indeed posted this weekend, he’ll have a week to receive and review the written reports, a week to meet with teams face-to-face, and a week to make his decision. That’s the rough timetable.

The Yankees are expected to pursue Ohtani aggressively, at least as aggressively as this format allows, so of course they’re going to submit a written report. So, with that in mind, how about we take a crack at building what amounts to the team’s recruiting letter? Let’s go item by item.

Evaluation As A Pitcher

Ace caliber. High-end velocity — Ohtani has broken his own record for the fastest pitch in Japanese baseball history several times, reportedly topping out at 102 mph in 2016 — combined with two legitimate put-away secondary pitches (splitter and slider) point to top of the rotation ability. Ohtani has multiple weapons to miss bats and miss the sweet spot of the bat, so in addition to strikeouts, we expect lots of soft contact too.

Furthermore, given the differences in the way the game is played in MLB and NPB, we expect Ohtani’s strikeout rate to improve going forward. Hitters in Japan are more contact-oriented than they are over here. The league average strikeout rate in Japan was 19.3% this season. It was 21.6% in MLB. Hitters swing and miss more often here, which will inevitably improve Ohtani’s strikeout rate and overall performance. Consider Masahiro Tanaka:

  • 2013 in Japan: 22.3% strikeouts
  • 2014 in MLB: 26.0% strikeouts

An immediate uptick. The hitters are more aggressive, plus pitching coach Larry Rothschild has a history of improving strikeout and walk rates.

Speaking of walks, this past season Ohtani walked 19 of the 105 batters he faced (18.1%), which we attribute more to the nagging ankle and quad problems than a deficiency in control. Ohtani’s walk rate during his stellar 2016 campaign was 8.2%, roughly league average. Because he’s so athletic and able to repeat his delivery, his control and command will improve as Ohtani gains experience. The walks will come down.

There are very few pitchers like Ohtani in the world and the best comp we can come up with is Stephen Strasburg. Both have an upper-90s fastball and two wipeout secondary pitches. Strasburg throws a curveball and changeup whereas Ohtani throws a slider and splitter, but the quality of those pitches is similar. They’re bonafide out pitches. Strasburg was immediately successful in MLB and has never not been excellent when healthy. Based on his ability, Ohtani can do the same. This is a rare talent ready to be a true frontline pitcher immediately.

Evaluation As A Hitter

The numbers are great. We know that much. Ohtani really came into his own has a hitter in 2016, once he quit playing the outfield and focused on his offense as a DH. In the two years since, he’s hit .326/.411/.570 with 30 home runs in 613 plate appearances, roughly a full season’s worth. Consider Ohtani relative the league averages:

  • AVG: .326 (.255 average)
  • OBP: .411 (.317 average)
  • SLG: .570 (.381 average)

My quick calculation gives Ohtani a 198 OPS+ over the last two seasons. That’s great! As for the evaluation, we have three points to make about Ohtani’s potential as a hitter.

1. His swing is pretty sweet. Why is it we only say a left-handed batter has a sweet swing? We never say a righty has a sweet swing. Weird. Anyway, here’s a side view look at Ohtani’s swing:

There is some Bryce Harper-esque violence in that swing. Not bad violence like he’s all over the place and herky jerky. Violence against the baseball violence. Ohtani does get his front foot down a little early, and there is some length to his swing, which are two reasons some folks question whether he’ll be able to handle premium velocity. Personally, we think that the front foot issue is fixable — or adjustable, since it’s not actually broken — which will allow him to better handle hard stuff. To us, that swing does not look like the swing of a part-time player. That looks like the swing of a legitimate power threat.

2. He’ll love hitting in Yankee Stadium. According to the (outdated?) park factors at Yakyu Baka, the Sapporo Dome suppresses home runs more than all but one other park in Japan, making Ohtani’s power output that much more impressive. Yankee Stadium, meanwhile, is one of the most extreme home run ballparks in MLB, especially for left-handed hitters. Ohtani has shown the ability to hit the ball out of the park to all fields …

… but going from the Sapporo Dome to Yankee Stadium is going to lead to a considerable uptick in power for Ohtani. The Sapporo Dome is 328 feet down the right field line with a 19 foot wall while Yankee Stadium is 314 feet down the line with an eight-foot wall. Balls that are routine fly outs elsewhere falls into the first or second or third row at Yankee Stadium. Ohtani will love it.

3. He’s probably going to strike out a lot. As pretty as Ohtani’s swing may be, he did strike out in 26.3% of his plate appearances from 2016-17, and that’s in a league with an average 19.3% strikeout rate. Relative to the rest of the league, Ohtani struck out about as often as Aaron Judge. And hey, that’s okay! Judge struck out a lot and he was still a monster, so much so that he was runner-up for the AL MVP award. Others like Khris Davis (128 wRC+) and Domingo Santana (126 wRC+) struck out at similar rates relative to the league average this year and were very productive.

The fact of the matter is Ohtani has a tendency to swing and miss, and he’ll face a higher caliber of pitching in MLB than he did in NPB. There is so much more velocity on this side of the pond, especially in the bullpen where every team seems to have three or four guys who run it up to 97-98 mph. Also, Ohtani gets pitched around a lot in Japan and reportedly has a tendency to get frustrated and expand the zone when that happens. Such is the life of a young hitter. We think he’ll grow out of that.

The honest evaluation: Ohtani has significant power potential, especially in Yankee Stadium, but the swing-and-miss issues are real. We’re willing to live with the strikeouts in exchange for the power and everything else that comes with the package. The Yankees are not looking to overhaul Ohtani in order to cut down on the strikeouts. In the short-term, we envision him as a sixth or seventh place hitter who complements the big bats in the middle of the lineup. Long-term, we believe Ohtani has a chance to be a three-four-five type of hitter.

Player Development, Etc.

The Yankees’ recent player development track record speaks for itself. Within the last three years the farm system has produced the 2017 AL MVP runner-up and unanimous 2017 AL Rookie of the Year (Judge), the third place finisher in the 2017 AL Cy Young voting (Luis Severino), the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up (Gary Sanchez), the best rookie starter in baseball in 2017 (Jordan Montgomery), and a player who has hit 23 homers in 107 big league games (Greg Bird). Consider the production from homegrown players, via The Baseball Gauge:

  • Since Opening Day 2017: +12.9 WAR (1st in MLB)
  • Since Opening Day 2016: +21.8 WAR (1st in MLB)
  • Since Opening Day 2015: +27.1 WAR (7th in MLB)
  • Since Opening Day 2014: +42.8 WAR (9th in MLB)

The Yankees produce both stars and complementary players, and we have a knack for getting players to exceed their perceived ceiling. Was Judge expected to be a .284/.422/.627 hitter? Were people counting on Severino to be the first Yankees starter with a sub-3.00 ERA in two decades? How many had Chad Green becoming a top ten reliever?

In terms of philosophy, the Yankees are obsessed with power and athleticism. Power on the mound and power at the plate. At the same time, the philosophy has been to let players be themselves. No one is trying to turn Tyler Wade into a power hitter, you know? Emphasize strengths, build comradery (Captain’s Camp, etc.), and set high standards. The goal is to win everywhere. It’s not a coincidence the farm system had seven playoff teams and the highest combined winning percentage in the minors.

Now, the obvious elephant in the room is the recent defection of farm system head Gary Denbo. He left to join old buddy Derek Jeter in Miami. Kevin Reese, who has worked in the front office since 2008, took over as the senior director of player development and we trust he will not only continue to lead a productive farm system, but even improve on it. The farm system has produced a lot of talent lately and there is more on the way.

Minor League & Spring Facilities

State of the art. Both George M. Steinbrenner Field and the Himes minor league complex in Tampa (yeah, yeah, we know) were renovated within the last two years. New fields, new workout rooms and weightlifting equipment, new video rooms, new training rooms, new cafeterias, new dorms for prospects, the works. The Spring Training and minor league complex are as modern as you’ll find.

Furthermore, PNC Field, home of Triple-A Scranton, was basically torn down and rebuilt in 2012. The Yankees do not anticipate Ohtani spending any time in the minors for developmental purposes, but if he’s down there for injury rehab, he can rest assured the ballpark is newly renovated and as close to big league caliber as it gets. Also, Arm & Hammer Park (Double-A Trenton) and Richmond Country Bank Ballpark (Staten Island Yankees) are among the most popular parks in the minors, and Calfee Park (Pulaski Yankees) underwent $9M in renovations less than three years ago.

Cultural Assimilation

(AP)
(AP)

The Yankees are no strangers to helping players transition from Japan to the United States. There’s been at least one Japanese-born player on the roster every season since 2003 aside from 2010-11. The Yankees helped Hideki Matsui and Tanaka transition to the United States and thrive on the field immediately. Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki also spent time in New York. Dealing with a Japanese-born superstar is nothing new.

Now, that said, everyone is different, and we know moving to a new country can be very overwhelming, especially in a city like New York. The good news is the five boroughs are home to the largest Japanese community on the East Coast, and there’s something for everyone here. Many young players live in the city, but if that’s not your thing, there are nearby suburbs in New Jersey and Westchester.

The cultural transition will be the most difficult part of coming to MLB. Not throwing a fastball or hitting a slider. It is important for Ohtani to be comfortable at home in order for him to be comfortable on the field, and the Yankees have as much experience helping a star Japanese player transition to life in the United States as any team in the league. Tanaka likes it here so much he declined to use his opt-out rather than pursue a larger deal elsewhere.

Integration Into The Organization

A few years back Ohtani would have been joining an aging Yankees roster that was trying to hang on more than take a step forward. Now, thanks to recent player development, we had the eighth youngest pitching staff (27.8 years) in baseball this season, and were middle of the pack in position player age (28.6). This was an older roster a few years ago that is now getting younger.

While we view Ohtani as a potential star and transcendent two-way player who could change the way teams build rosters and develop players, the Yankees wouldn’t be asking him to step into the lineup/rotation and be The Man from day one. That’s a lot of pressure to put on someone new to the league and new to the country. Instead, Ohtani can slide in and be part of the youth movement, not the youth movement.

Make no mistake, attention on Ohtani will be massive when Spring Training rolls around, not matter where he signs. That is unavoidable. The Yankees have some other great players who will draw attention away from Ohtani, namely Judge and Sanchez and Severino and Gleyber Torres, which will help. There is very much a “team first” mentality in the clubhouse and Ohtani will be viewed as one of the guys, not as bigger than everyone else.

We understand there may be some apprehension about joining the Yankees given the current managerial situation. (We don’t have one.) Players like to know who they’ll be playing for. Right now, we can’t tell you who that will be. All we can say is we’re looking for a manager who will take our collection of young players to the next level. Given the players we have, I reckon no other clubhouse in baseball is as prepared to welcome and help a star making the jump from Japan to MLB as the Yankees.

Why Play For The Yankees?

Well, this is the easy part. First of all, the Yankees are the most storied franchise in baseball. The history is everywhere you look. You’ll get to rub elbows with Reggie Jackson and Whitey Ford and Mariano Rivera on the regular. Secondly, Yankee Stadium is brand new and one of the most modern and state of the art ballparks in baseball. Older ballparks have a certain charm, for sure, but you can’t beat modern amenities.

Third, this Yankees team is a rapidly rising team that just blew past all projections to get to within one game of the World Series. Judge, Sanchez, Severino, and Bird are only the start. Torres is arguably the best prospect in baseball and Estevan Florial might be the best prospect in baseball 12 months from now. Just about every scouting publication ranks the farm system as one of the best and deepest in baseball.

Fourth, there is no better place to be a star athlete than New York. Judge just signed a big endorsement deal with Pepsi. Tanaka has millions in endorsement deals. Derek Jeter banked over $100M in endorsements. New York is basically the center of the universe. Succeed here and you will be rewarded handsomely, and not only in player contracts. New York sports stars become legends. You’ll have a chance to be remembered forever in Monument Park.

No other team in baseball can offer Ohtani the chance to pitch and hit regularly, the chance to win right away, the chance to play with a young roster (with more young players on the way), and the chance to enjoy all the other great things that come with being a star New York athlete. Players come here and they never want to leave, and many don’t. Many stay in the area after they retire as players. Matsui still lives in the Tri-State Area, in fact.

Playing in New York and for the Yankees is not for the faint of heart. Expectations are high here and the media can be a real pain in the ass. There is no better place to win though. Succeed here and you’ll be a legend. You’ll be beloved. The Yankees are the most recognizable brand in sports and baseball’s preeminent franchise. We believe Ohtani can change the game by being an impact player on both sides of the ball. What better way to reinvent the game than in pinstripes?

MLB, NPB, MLBPA agree to new posting system, paving the way for Ohtani to come over this offseason

(AP)
(AP)

Shohei Ohtani will indeed get a chance to play in Major League Baseball next season.

MLB, NPB, and the MLBPA agreed to a new posting system prior to tonight’s deadline, according to multiple reports. Ohtani will be grandfathered in under the old posting agreement this offseason, meaning the Nippon Ham Fighters will receive a $20M release fee. The new posting agreement will take effect next offseason.

According to Joel Sherman’s Twitter feed, the new posting system includes a graduating posting fee scale based on the player’s contract. The payment to the player’s former team in Japan is now based on how much the player receives. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 20% for contracts $25M or less ($5M max).
  • 17.5% for contracts from $25M to $50M ($8.75M max).
  • 15% for contracts over $50M.
  • 25% for all minor league contracts.

Starting next season the posting window will be open from November 1st through December 5th. The player will have 30 days to negotiating a contract once he is posted. Ohtani will have only 21 days to negotiate a contract this winter, however. The union wants to wrap this up quick so it doesn’t hold up the rest of the free agent market.

The 30 MLB owners must ratify the new posting system by next Friday, though that is considered a formality. Once that happens, Ohtani can be posted. “(The) entire process will be worked through sooner rather than later,” said a source to Mark Feinsand. So I guess that means Ohtani could be posted as soon as next weekend.

The Nippon Ham Fighters have already announced their intention to post Ohtani. The Yankees supposedly have the most international bonus money available after acquiring an additional $250,000 from the Marlins earlier this week, though no one seems to know exactly how much. Apparently it’s $3.5M or so.

Multiple reports have indicated the Yankees plan to go hard after Ohtani, though given the international hard cap, the financial playing field is level. They can’t blow him away with a massive contract offer. They’ll have to sell him on the idea of being a Yankee, joining an up-and-coming team, and playing in great city. Who knows what Ohtani’s preferences are though.

Update: Jim Allen hears Ohtani is tentatively scheduled to be posted on Saturday, December 2nd. The day after the posting agreement has to be ratified. That means we’ll know Ohtani’s destination by Saturday, December 23rd. One month from today, basically.