ORLANDO — The Mets may throw their hat into the ring for Japanese star Shohei Otani, multiple industry sources confirmed Tuesday night. They would join the Yankees and other big-market teams possibly vying for the right to land the 23-year-old two-way standout.
It is also a long shot that the player who is called the Japanese Babe Ruth will be lured away from the Red Sox, Yankees or Dodgers and end up in Flushing, an industry source said Tuesday night.
But the Mets will definitely consider it when Otani is officially on the market, should that happen.
First and foremost, MLB has to work out an agreement with Japanese baseball to actually get Otani here.
The league and the Players Association will have to agree to grandfather him in under the now-expired posting system. That would mean the team that signs Otani would pay $20 million to his Japanese team, the Nippon-Ham Fighters. His long-awaited arrival is being held up by this dispute, but is expected to be worked out before next month’s Winter Meetings.
The right-handed pitcher who is also a threat as a left-handed hitting outfielder, will not be able to command the mega contracts that other Japanese players like Masahiro Tanaka have done in the past.
Under the new MLB collective bargaining agreement, reached last winter, Otani’s earning would be limited by the international player signing pool.
That means teams would be limited to offering him a signing bonus that is capped by their remaining international signing pool money. That is a restriction for international players under the age of 25. That means right now, Otani’s signing bonus would be maxed out at around $3.5 million.
The team would then sign Otani to a minor league contract. That would limit his hit to the payroll — at least initially.
With the Mets looking to keep their payroll under the $154.4 million that they had on Opening Day last year, making a play for Otani is a very price-effective way to make a big splash this winter.
And the Mets definitely need that after a lackluster 2017 season and to try to kick off a new era in Flushing under first-year manager Mickey Callaway.
And the Mets could be very attractive to Otani, who has made it clear that he would like to continue playing on both sides of the ball like he does in Japan.
Not only does New York offer perhaps the biggest opportunity to market himself and earn endorsement money to make up for that shortfall in contract and salary, but it would be a comfortable situation for him on the field.
With the Mets being a pitching-centric team with a lot of starting pitching right now, they could limit his starts to every sixth day, more like the schedule he would be used to coming from Japanese baseball.
In the National League, Otani would be able to continue being a force at the plate and on the mound.
He has also selected CAA, the people that handle Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes, as his representatives, meaning they have a familiarity with what the Mets can offer.
Otani is an impact player on both sides of the ball.
Since 2013, in 82 starts (and three relief appearances) Otani has a 2.52 ERA in 543 innings with the Nippon-Ham Fighters. Over that span, he has allowed just 24 home runs. He has averaged 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings and just 3.3 walks per nine.
And he’s not just a good hitting pitcher. Otani has a career .286 batting average with a .358 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage.
And he’d be coming from a place all too familiar to most Mets players in 2017. Otani missed the World Baseball Classic in 2017 because of an ankle injury. He then had a thigh injury that had him out for a few months.