The Phillies have plenty of room to make roster upgrades, plenty of money to spend, and a management team that describes its organizational philosophy with trendy corporate buzz speak, like “finding value in the margins.” You know, “maximizing financial investments,” “thinking outside-the-box,” “leaving no stone unturned” – that kind of thing. This is particularly noteworthy because this offseason likely marks the highly-anticipated U.S. arrival of 23-year-old Japanese baseball sensation Shohei Otani.
You’ve probably heard of him by now. He’s the two-way player that possesses above average power at the plate and a fastball that regularly hits triple digits. It’s not hard to figure out why Otani gets scouts hard and has fans of every team in baseball hoping their favorite team can somehow land him.
Otani hit .326 with 30 home runs in 525 at-bats for the Nippon Ham Fighters over the last two seasons, but he’s primarily coveted by Major League teams for his potential on the mound. In 543 career innings since turning pro at age 18, Otani has utilized advanced secondary pitches and an electric fastball to post a 42-15 record, 2.69 ERA, and an impressive 10.3 K/9. He’s often compared to Yu Darvish, with more upside.
“So he can hit and pitch? Fuck it, let’s sign him!”
Good idea, but would he want to come here? Apparently, he does! Let’s check out this exchange between Otani and Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com:
MLB.com: What do you like about daily life in the United States?
Ohtani: I’ve only been to Hawaii and Arizona, but I like the huge steaks.
MLB.com: What cities are you curious about and would like to see?
Ohtani: The Rocky Balboa statue, I want a picture of that.
MLB.com: Philadelphia has a baseball team, you know.
Ohtani: No, I just want to visit there.
Well, then. I guess we’ll go fuck ourselves. Love this, by the way. Of all the things in America he wants to see, he picks the ROCKY STATUE, and then, in the next breath, just matter-of-factly dismisses the Phillies as an option. Ice cold.
That might feel like a bit of a slight, but it’s not worth losing sleep over. If Otani wanted to extend his stay beyond taking his picture in front of a statue of a fictional athlete, it wasn’t going to happen for a few reasons. Even if you overlook that Otani is best suited for an American League team that can more freely utilize his bat on days when he doesn’t pitch, the Phillies, in this particular case, are at a financial disadvantage.
Though they can easily foot his $20 million posting fee, new cap limits on international free agents under age 25 means that he won’t simply sign with the team that writes the biggest check. Teams with the most remaining international signing money (Yankees, Rangers, Twins and Angels) are the ones most likely to get a deal done. It’s a complicated system, but the short of it is the Phillies don’t currently have as much to spend in this market; thus, it looks like the Phillies will have to find “value in the margins” elsewhere.