According to a report at Newsday, the Mets are kicking around the idea of making a run at Japanese two-way phenom Shohei Otani. The 23-year old Otani, expected to be posted this offseason by the Nippon Ham Fighters, is one of the most dynamic young talents that baseball has seen in a while and has a legitimate chance to be a star in the majors both as a pitcher and a position player, thanks to a fastball that touches 100 mph and light-tower power. All the Mets would have to do to be able to negotiate with Ohtani is submit a $20 million posting fee.
On a day where they were surprisingly linked to veteran free agents Carlos Santana and Lorenzo Cain, Otani would represent an even more surprising target for the Mets as it was thought that they hadn’t sent scouts to watch him play during the season. One of the perks of signing Otani, however, is that his salary would be depressed due to MLB’s international signing bonus rules. Otani would be forced to sign a minor league contract with a signing bonus topping out at $3.5 million, an arrangement that would keep his salary down for a couple of years in the majors.
Despite missing some time due to a thigh injury in 2017, Otani was still able to play in 65 games as an outfielder for Nippon and hit a robust .332/.403/.540. He also made 5 starts, putting up a 3.20 ERA. Over a full season in 2016 as a 21-year old, Otani went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA and an eye-popping 174 strikeouts over 140 innings, while also posting a 1.004 OPS and 22 home runs as a hitter. Theoretically, Otani could fill holes on both sides for the Mets if they were to sign him.
Aside from actually getting Otani to sign with them over other teams such as the Dodgers and Yankees, a smaller hurdle for the Mets would be acquiring extra international signing pool slots to accomodate Otani’s signing bonus. The Mets used up the entirety of their bonus pool during this past summer’s international free agent signing period when they signed a number of international prospects including SS Ronny Mauricio for $2.1 million and OF Adrian Hernandez for $1.5 million. They also acquired extra slots from the Orioles in a trade for SS prospect Milton Ramos in July.
For more on Otani, read our recent International Free Agent Profile.