San Francisco Giants: How realistic is a run at Shohei Otani?
By Daniel Sperry
The San Francisco Giants had hopes of being a playoff team, and now are staring 100 losses in the face. There are a lot of issues with this team, and just sheer overall talent might be one of them. Now, Shohei Otani, one of the highest touted players coming from Japan in a long time, is going to make the move to MLB in 2018. Do the Giants have a shot?
Fans aren’t the only ones who thought the 2017 San Francisco Giants team would have been better. Even the “experts” had them in the playoffs. But 100 losses might be the reality. If they are going to try and compete in 2018 like they have said they will do, then they need help. Both at the plate and in the rotation frankly. Shohei Otani could technically do both.
The 23 year old star wants to come to the US a few years early, despite the proposition of him earning an insane contract if he just simply waited two years to sign. But according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo.com, and multiple reports out of Japan, Otani is coming in 2018. He will enter the international posting system this winter.
Otani posted a 1.86 ERA and 175 strikeouts in 140 innings during his 2017 campaign with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, of NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball). Throw in a .322 average and a 1.004 OPS with 27 homers, he’s the real freaking deal. There is some discussion of him even being a two-way player, playing in the outfield in games he does not pitch in.
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His fee, thanks to the collective bargaining agreement is going to be a cool $20 million dollars just to sign him. Those familiar with how the European Soccer transfer market works, will understand what that means. For those that don’t, read the next paragraph.
The $20 million fee is not at all associated with the actual contract the Giants will give him. That $20 million is simply a buy-out clause for his current contract. They give the team, or Otani/his agent the money to buy-out the remaining years on his contract. THEN, they negotiate his contract. Frankly, the Giants shouldn’t have any problem coughing up a flat $20 million.
The issue that comes into play here is his actual contract. One thing about his contract is that thanks to MLB rules, international players under the age of 25 cannot be signed to deals higher than $10 million dollars.
So now they’re in the penalty, and don’t even have the player that put them there to show for it because they traded him, Matt Duffy, and skeeter to the Tampa Bay Rays for Matt Moore INSTEAD OF FREAKING MARK MELANCON. It comes full circle.
The San Francisco Giants are in the second year of their international signing bonus pool penalty. That means they can’t spend more than $300k on a player contract despite being able to increase their bonus pool size up to $8.3 million via trade of international signing bonus money This significantly hampers their chances of getting him.
Otani would’ve been incredible for the Giants. With the Bay Area holding the third highest Asian-American Population in the United States, it’s a market the organization simply hasn’t tapped into as much as they should.
Otani would’ve been great for that, and it would’ve been much better if he had tried to come over for 2019, or in 2020 and the Giants could’ve made a run at him in the free agent market. But they are basically handicapped in trying to get him. The following teams can offer him beyond what the Giants, and 10 other teams can:
- Teams that can offer $10.1 million
- Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Teams that can offer $9.2 million
- Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins
- Teams that can offer $8.3 million
- Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angel, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Seattle Mariners, Texas Ranger, Toronto Blue Jays
Thankfully you didn’t see the Los Angeles Dodgers on this list. If they could offer him more than the $300k then they you could very well have seen him in Dodger Blue. None of the markets that can spend $10.1 million look really intriguing, but you can expect them to make a hard run.
Otani has already showed us he doesn’t care about the money, he just wants to be here, playing in the MLB. The crop of teams who can offer $8.3 million looks incredibly enticing. If he wanted to aim for large Asian-American Markets, three of the largest non Bay Area markets are available in Baltimore, Chicago, LA, and New York are all available at that price.
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So all this to say, the Giants likely aren’t getting in on the Otani bidding. There’s probably less than a one percent chance he ends up in San Francisco. There are two alternate universes where the Giants have a higher chance at getting him.
The first is that Bobby Evans actually pulled the trigger on Mark Melancon last offseason and the Giants won the world series in 2016, then followed up with a better 2017 than this current dumpster fire. If the Giants didn’t have a potential 100 loss season fresh on the top of the pile of season results, Otani could’ve thought about it hard enough to take the cheap contract and become a winner on a good/great team. But that’s not a reality.
The other alternate universe is that the Giants never signed Lucius Fox, putting them over their allotment, resulting in the current penalty against them. Instead, they wasted a chunk of change on Fox, and then despite the fact there were no more penalties to be incurred for them spending that much on him, they just stopped spending on legit players after that. So now they’re in the penalty, and don’t even have the player that put them there to show for it because they traded him, Matt Duffy, and skeeter to the Tampa Bay Rays for Matt Moore INSTEAD OF FREAKING MARK MELANCON. It comes full circle.
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So yeah. The Giants won’t be getting Otani, and it’s their own fault. They’ll likely miss out on a once in a generation talent that identifies with probably the second largest ethnic population within their market. But stay tuned. It seemed like there was less the one percent chance that they lose 100 games at the start of the season, and they’re well on their way there. So maybe the impossible will happen. But don’t get your hopes up. I will take an absolute miracle to see Otani in the Giants organization next year.