*This piece was presented to me by Walter Hernandez. He is fluent in Japanese and has kept himself up to date on the Otani (Ohtani) situation. He stands by the fact that the Padres are indeed still in the running for the services of this young talent. A special thanks to Walter for contributing.
Major League Baseball, the MLBPA, and the NPB have come to an agreement for the future posting system, which will allow Shohei Otani to come to MLB in 2018.
Many reporters and insiders have predicted Otani to be a part of the Yankees in the foreseeable future.
I do not believe it. I do not believe any of their “talk”. I will explain why the Padres are the best fit for Otani by answering the memo he sent to all 30 teams:
“An evaluation of Shohei’s talent as a pitcher and/or a hitter.” Who were the people scouting Otani way back when he was considering to be posted as a high school graduate? Per Baseball America, the teams who contacted Otani in 2012 were the Rangers, Red Sox, and the Dodgers. The senior director of player personnel for the Rangers then was A.J. Preller, now the Padres’ general manager. Scouting directors for the Dodgers at the time were Logan White and Acey Kohrogi, both of whom are current employees of the San Diego Padres as scouting directors. What kind of scouting report the Padres can produce is up to them. However, there is an argument to be made that Preller and company have more knowledge about Otani than anybody else among the 30 teams. Intriguing.
“Player development, medical, training, and player performance philosophies and capabilities.” The word, “pushing” is an adequate term, in my opinion, to describe the developmental philosophy of the Padres. Fernando Tatis Jr. was a recipient of an aggressive promotion in 2017; stellar performances are rewarded accordingly. From a medical standpoint, the Padres have hired former Fighters trainer, Seiichiro Nakagaki, who has also treated Otani in his time at the Nippon Ham. From a medical/training stand point, it can be argued that the Padres are in the best position in terms of conditioning Otani. And at last, player performance. Do you remember when Hunter Renfroe was sent down towards the end of August? The team is not afraid to ‘discipline’ their players if there is a need for it. Just because the Padres were not a contender in 2017, mediocrity is not tolerated, and that is a good thing. Japanese players require structure and discipline.
“Major League, Minor League, and Spring Training facilities.” Well, the World Baseball Classic is held in Petco Park for a reason. The most pleasant weather conditions throughout the season and pitching-friendly environment in Petco Park is plenty for Otani to be excited about. Yu Darvish, in a recent interview, said that Petco Park is one of the most desirable place to pitch in because of the above reasons. I will skip the minor league facility because I have never been to any of them, but I am sure there are interesting features they can offer. I think that all minor league facilities are nice and thus I personally put lesser weight to it. As far as the spring training facilities go, Otani should be familiar with the Peoria Sports Complex. His former team held their spring training there and he pitched against the Korean team in a scrimmage.
“Resources for Shohei’s cultural assimilation.” This is another strength that the Padres possess. They have Hideo Nomo, Takashi Saito, and Akinora Otsuka at their disposal. Not only that, San Diego has a sizeable Japanese community in the proximity of downtown where Petco Park is located. There should not be a struggle for him to find Japanese cuisine if he so desires. He will find San Diego suitable in terms of cultural assimilation.
“A detailed plan for integrating Shohei into the organization.” This is perhaps the question that the Padres can score a grand slam on, if they had not already done so in the last four questions. In the beginning of the 2017 season, the team had experimented with then-catcher Christian Bethancourt to pitch and hit at both the major league and minor league level. Many view this experiment as a failure, and perhaps it was. Perhaps it was too aggressive and too optimistic for him to put up formidable stats. But, at least the Padres have tried and learned from such an experiment, whether it’s “how this player’s usage affects performance?” or “How should the team accommodate such a player in terms of a training standpoint?” By the same token, the Padres have also tested a 6-man rotation towards the end of the year when the roster expanded. Again, they have concrete data and/or analysis they can draw from. And this really sounds similar to the presentation the Fighters showed to Otani in 2012. The Fighters did their homework on the success rate of Asian amateurs who bypass their league and go to MLB. The Padres have done their homework on the usage of two-way players, and they are the only team that have something to show for it. Interesting.
“Why the city and franchise are a desirable place to play.” One thing the Padres can offer for certain is the time for Otani to adjust to the major league environment. 2018 will be the year for development for many of the youngsters, and there is no reason to think that Otani can’t join the likes of Margot, Renfroe, and Hedges. Also, the Padres’ roster and rotation are far from set. Otani can garner a sufficient amount of at bats and innings. This will not be the case if he chooses teams like the Dodgers or the Yankees. He will be expected to perform from day one, and should he fail to deliver, he may not get enough playing time.
“Relevant marketplace characteristics.” Okay, let’s talk about why I think Otani will probably not go to the Yankees: The city itself. New York is perhaps the most conservative city in terms of baseball. They glorify their player one day and the next day he can be the devil incarnate. Constant pressure from the media, the fans, and perhaps from the front office to perform or else, is the exact reason why a player like Otani, who is trying to do something that has not been done since the 1920s, should avoid the city of New York all together. The Padres are the only major sports team left after the departure of the Chargers, and though they are in the midst of rebuild, both media and fans embrace the team and its process to a larger extent. This forgiveness, that allows development over immediate performance, is precisely the reason why Otani should choose the Padres over the Yankees or other big market teams.
Well, there you have it. Otani is expected to be posted by the end of this week, which will promptly set off perhaps the most bizarre, college recruitment-like negotiations. The Padres may not even enter into their mind when they make predictions. But there are tons of things working for the Padres, and to discount them isn’t such a good idea.