The Dodgers are one of the final seven teams still in the running to sign Japanese phenom Shohei Othani. With the market being so competitive to land the star two-way player, what does the perfect pitch sound like for the Dodgers to win the Ohtani sweepstakes?
Ohtani is meeting with several teams this week in Los Angeles. The Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Cubs, Padres, Rangers, and the Mariners are the final teams that are in the running for Ohtani. The Ohtani sweepstakes have been quite a ride so far, starting when the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters posted him as an international free agent on the first of December.
Ohtani gave every team in league homework by asking them to craft a sales pitch to why he should sign with their respective team. Ultimately Ohtani eliminated most of the teams, including some, who were expected to be front-runners like the Yankees and the Twins. So what exactly does a perfect sales pitch sound like for Ohtani?
Well because there have been so many reports on the Ohtani sweepstakes, we can only speculate what Ohtani prefers. So what exactly do we know?
We know that money isn’t his biggest motivation to bring his talents to America. He made the early jump from Japan at age 23, whereas if he waited two more years he could have been in line for a contract without a max cap. Also, five of the seven teams remaining can only offer him $300,000 in signing bonus (Dodgers included).
We also know that Ohtani wants to continue to both pitch and hit at his normal routine. Ohtani served as a DH in his last three seasons in Japan and pitched every Sunday or Monday (when healthy). It sounds like he would be better suited for an AL team, yet there is still four NL team in play. After that, it’s all speculation.
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Rumor has it that Ohtani prefers to play on the West Coast. Five of the seven teams that are finalist are located on the West Coast. There are also gaining reports that Ohtani does not want to play for a large market franchise and wants to be the main Japanese draw for that fanbase. So with all these various reports, what does the ideal Dodger pitch sound like to Ohtani?
Well, based on those reports above, it seems like the Dodgers may be a long shot to sign Ohtani. They are not a small market team, already have a Japanese starter (Kenta Maeda), and do not offer a DH position so he can be in the lineup on days that he is not pitching. So should Friedman give up? Heck No.
Here’s the deal, the Dodgers don’t play in a small market city by any means. But if Ohtani is ever going to have a have a smoother transition to the states, it would be in the US’s largest Japanese state, California. An international relocation would be difficult for anyone to manage, let alone a 23-year-old superstar. By coming to the Dodgers, he can be mentored by current Dodger Kenta Maeda, and also has the ability to play for the only manager of Japanese descent in the MLB, Dave Roberts.
The Dodgers have a long history of Japanese players with Hideo Nomo, Hiroki Kuroda, Takashi Saito, and Kaz Ishii. Los Angeles was able to kick start each of their careers in a positive direction. The sky would be the limit for Ohtani to surpass these Japanese legends.
The next thing the Dodgers should be selling is their current pitching staff. With Clayton Kershaw and Rick Honeycutt in command of the big league rotation, Ohtani would have the opportunity to learn for the best the MLB has to offer. He’s a right-handed pitcher and would slot in nicely between Kershaw and Hill, which will allow him to have easier pitching matchups by not facing the opposing team’s ace. He could very well be the ace for the other six teams in the running, but that could hinder his growth by not giving him time to adjust to the American style of play.
That’s not to mention the bright future the Dodgers’ pitching staff has in the up and coming seasons. Walker Buehler, Yadier Alvarez, and Trevor Oaks are expected to make some impact in the big leagues this season. That doesn’t include Julio Urias who is rehabbing from surgery. Even if Kershaw would leave after this season, the Dodgers rotation would still be bright and headlined by young starters.
Which brings me to my last point, the youth of this team. Currently, this team has two starters older than 30 years-old. They have built a young core that will continue to compete for championships for the next ten years. Ohtani has the opportunity not only to be apart of that young core but to lead them to multiple championships. There is enough veteran presence in the clubhouse to allow him to settle into his dominance in the states. But there is also talent around him that would help him succeed when he gets acclimated and takes over as the main star on the team.
So that’s it. That’s the Dodgers pitch to the young superstar. We respect the fact that he wants to compete with the worlds best baseball players and the Dodgers give him the best supporting cast to become a world champion. This team was one win away from winning last season and has more than a decade of seasons to continue to pursue that goal.
Ohtani not only has the opportunity to learn from the game’s best pitcher and pitching coach. But also lead them once he adjusts to the new league. I’m not sure if Ohtani is coming to LA. But if he does we’ll welcome him with open arms.