Dodgers: What you need to know about Shohei Ohtani
By Jacob Rudner
Shohei Ohtani is the most polarizing free agent to hit the market in a long time. Having been Japan’s best pitcher and one of its best hitters over the last few seasons should say it all. This ultra-talented 23-year-old will, in all likelihood play in the major leagues in 2018. The prospect of him playing for the Dodgers should make every baseball fan scared of the boys in blue.
For Ohtani to get to LA, a few things need to happen. First, and surprisingly least significant is the money. Due to the new collective bargaining agreement, Shohei Ohtani cannot be signed as a regular free agent. Since he is under the age of 25, Ohtani can only be signed as an international amateur. This ultimately limits the amount of money he can make in the signing bonus with the maximum being 3.25 million and that would come from the Texas Rangers. The Dodgers, due to previous years of spending, can only offer as much as $300,000.
The pressing question when it comes to finances has been this, “will it hurt the Dodgers chances?” The short answer is no and here’s why. Ohtani and his agent both know that he will make a ton of money somewhere down the road in his career. The goal for them is to get the young superstar into the organization that will allow him to flourish here starting in season one and the Dodgers have made it clear that they can do that. In an interview with Ohtani, president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman said:
"“We will make it work if Ohtani comes here. We’ll make sure to get him the opportunities he needs both as a pitcher and batter as long as we factor in rest days.”"
The decision will come down to opportunities rather than money. Friedman has always had a knack for bending the rules. Before the 2016 season, Friedman signed Japanese pitcher, Kenta Maeda, with similar rules regarding the bonus. Maeda’s contract was filled with incentives, and thus his contract was worth anywhere between 25 and 106 million dollars. Ohtani’s contract could be constructed in a similar fashion which could also be tempting.
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Another topic to address is the claim that Ohtani is best suited in the AL. Having hit 48 career homers in just four seasons, Ohtani is also a force to be reckoned with at the plate. With that being said, most AL teams would be foolish to allow him to bat as a DH on days in between starts. Regardless of how good his numbers were in Japan, Ohtani’s offensive numbers will not translate well enough in the MLB to make him a designated hitter.
That fact, in my opinion, gives the upper hand to NL teams. If Ohtani wants at-bats, his best route would be pinch-hitting. Every NL team needs a good bat off the bench and Ohtani could be just that. This year alone, the Dodgers used pitchers in baserunning, and pinch-hitting situations and Ohtani could be the go-to guy when those situations arise. Also, regardless of the team, he plays for, Ohtani is being brought here as a pitcher with a good bat, not a great batter who can pitch.
Finally, and most importantly to Dodger fans, is the pre-established history between Ohtani and the Dodgers. Back in 2012 when Ohtani was just turning 20, the Dodgers attempted to get him posted and in the states. But, due to his Japanese team’s refusal to give him up, Ohtani was stuck in Japan.
The point here is that he wants to play for the Dodgers. It would not be the first time he has had communication with the franchise, and he would also not be alone as his long-time idol, Kenta Maeda is still on the team.
Next: Maeda Should Stay in the Bullpen
Ohtani is anyone’s game at this point. If you were to look at it from a financial standpoint, it would be crazy to think that the Dodgers do not have some advantage. If all the cards are played correctly, and the Dodgers pull out all the stops, I believe Ohtani may be the newest addition to the already amazing Los Angeles Dodgers.