Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was over six thounsand miles away from his office on Thursday morning, as he traveled to Sapporo, Japan to watch phenom Shohei Otani — dubbed “Japan’s Babe Ruth” — in his start for the Nippon Ham-Fighters.
In front of a sizable crowd at the Sapporo Dome, Cashman was seated right behind home plate. According to a scout in attendance who spoke to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, 12 other major league teams requested seats to observe Otani as well.
So, what did Cashman make of the 23-year-old’s outing?
“No comment,” Cashman reportedly told Japanese baseball reporter Jason Coskrey. “Sapporo is a beautiful city.”
Perhaps Cashman’s eloquent response was due to the jet-lag of an 18-hour plane ride, but Otani’s lackluster performance was likely the reason why Cashman had little to say. In 3.1 innings, the right-hander allowed four runs on three hits and three walks. Due to an October ankle injury and April thigh injury, it was just his third appearance on the mound since last season’s Japan Series. In Otani’s first start of the year, he allowed four runs on two hits and three walks in 1.1 innings.
Although Otani can display a blistering fastball and a variety of off-speed pitches, his production at the plate has stood out the most. In 45 games, Otani’s hit .342 from the left side of the plate, with five home runs and 22 RBI.
If he chooses to leave Japan after this season, major league teams could sign him at a fairly reasonable price. Because of changes made to baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, Otani’s signing bonus would be based upon each team’s international pool allotment. According to several reports, the Yankees have roughly $8 million to spend, and Yahoo Sports notes that the hard cap on international players would allow Otani to sign for approximately $10 million, if he wants to be state-bound.
However, if Otani wants as much money as possible, it would make the most sense for him to stay in Japan for additonal two seasons, as he qualifies as a major league free agent once he turns 25.
According to Mike Mazzeo of the New York Daily News, Yankees assisant GM Jean Afterman also traveled to Japan, as she played an influential part in bringing Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka to the Bronx.