STAMFORD, Conn. – The Yankees are going all-in to try to land Shohei Otani.
Brian Cashman called the 23-year-old, two-way star known as the “Babe Ruth of Japan” a “perfect fit” for the Bombers on Friday, and said he’d be willing to let Otani pitch and hit.
Cashman had yet to speak about Otani publicly before Friday, though it had been well-known that the Yankees would be interested in his services.
The Yankees submitted their to pitch to Otani, as requested by his representatives last weekend. MLB owners were expected to ratify the new posting system on Friday, which would enable Otani to be posted and play in the major leagues in 2018. Otani would then have three weeks — until Dec. 22 — to make his decision.
“It’s a big stage here,” Cashman said Friday, “and it’s meant to have the best talent play in it. Otani represents the next great talent that’s available in the world of baseball. This stage is made for players like this, so that’s why we’re going to be aggressive in this process to the degree that we can.”
The Bombers have been scouting Otani since 2012, and Cashman and assistant GM Jean Afterman went to see him pitch in a game in Japan last season. Cashman acquired additional international signing bonus pool money in multiple trades — including the Sonny Gray deal that amounted to $1.5 million — in order to get to $3.5 million for Otani, just short of what the Rangers can offer ($3.535 million).
Otani, who can throw 100-plus mph and hit the ball 500-plus feet, could’ve been worth $200-300 million in free agency if he waited until he was 25, when his free agency would have been uncapped. But MLB rules dictate that he can only receive between $300,000-$3.535 million in signing bonus money.
Because of that small disparity, every team is essentially in the mix.
“We took great pains in an effort to educate him and his family and his representation about who the Yankees are and what we bring, whether it’s in that clubhouse, the locker room, the facilities, the dynamics of our franchise,” Cashman said.
“We have great ownership here that’s been in place now as a family for over 40 years, with a winning legacy that’s second to none. I think the Steinbrenner family brand equals the Yankees brand, in that the Yankees equal winning and the Steinbrenners also represent winning. That should be an attractive quality to anyone that’s looking to play at the highest level,” he added.
Otani could join a rotation that already includes Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. Cashman said there was “nothing to report” in regards to free agent CC Sabathia. The Bombers are also said to be interested in Alex Cobb.
Cashman plans to tender contracts to all players in advance of Friday’s deadline, including Austin Romine.
The GM also explained Aaron Judge’s recent left shoulder surgery in more detail.
“At his end of the season physical, during the workup he obviously had some complaints about his shoulder during the season,” Cashman said. “You saw the ice pack on it. So we did an MRI and Dr. Chris Ahmad had told him it’s something that we could proactively take care of with a cleanup or you could wait to see after a month if it resolves, then you don’t have to do anything. If it’s still lingering a little bit and you want to get ahead of it, we can address it. We’ll check back in a month. And a month later, he was still feeling it. So do you want to address it or allow the rest of the winter and come to camp and just avoid any surgery? And he said, ‘let’s get it done.’”
With Christian Red