I think it’s been pretty obvious that Shohei Ohtani will be unlike any player we’ve ever seen. The first indication was that he’s a fantastic two-way player that has drawn comparisons to Babe Ruth simply because he can dominate on the mound and at the plate. Then, we learned that he was willing to go through the MLB/NPB posting system, missing out on millions of dollars that he could earn if he simply waited two more years to become an international free agent. It’s this decision that has made all 30 teams a potential destination for the 23-year old Japanese phenom.
Now, it turns out that Ohtani has another wrinkle to add to his just-forming legacy. With potentially all 30 teams showing interest, Ohtani and his agent asked MLB teams to answer several survey questions about the budding star. Bill Shaikin wrote about the list of points the organizations had to address.
- “An evaluation of Shohei’s talent as a pitcher and/or a hitter”
- “Player development, medical, training and player performance philosophies and capabilities”
- “Major League, Minor League, and Spring Training facilities”
- “Resources for Shohei’s cultural assimilation”
- “A detailed plan for integrating Shohei into the organization”
- “Why the city and franchise are a desirable place to play”
- “Relevant marketplace characteristics”
From glancing at these, it appears that some of these factors will be more important than others. For example, nearly all the teams should rate similarly for Point #3 (except Oakland and Tampa Bay). Additionally, I’m sure all teams will provide glowing reports on his baseball talents, though I’m sure it will be important to come off as both flattering and honest. Meanwhile, I don’t blame Ohtani for wanting to be comfortable both in his new home and within his new organization, and I’m sure that he and his agent want to hear each team’s best sales pitch in order to lure him stateside. In fact, Travis Sawchik of FanGraphs surveyed his readers during an online chat on Monday and the top three vote-getters were the organizational integration (31.8%), the organizational philosophies (26.6%), and the attractiveness of the team and hometown (19.1%).
Like Sawchik, I mostly agree with these three factors. While I don’t have any insider knowledge as to what Ohtani desires, I do have an idea as to what the Minnesota Twins can offer him and thus attempt to answer these questions to the best of my ability.
“An evaluation of Shohei’s talent as a pitcher and/or a hitter”
I’m not going to write up a formal evaluation of Ohtani, I’ve already completed my undergraduate degree and I haven’t started a masters program yet. But, I will say that Ohtani’s ability to throw in the high-90s with a nasty splitter and slider will certainly play in the major leagues. He’s a guy that has the potential to be atop your rotation for years. Plus, plenty of Japanese pitchers have come over and had success in MLB with Koji Uehara and Masahiro Tanaka as recent examples. As for his offense, he has the ability to be above-average but the upside isn’t as great as him strictly being a pitcher. It appears that Ohtani wants to continue playing as both a hitter and pitcher and I feel any team should be willing to entertain that idea.
“Player development, medical, training and player performance philosophies and capabilities”
This is a bit harder to peg for the Twins with their constant organizational turnover since Paul Molitor became the manager. A relatively new manager, a general manager, head of baseball operations, and hitting coach with just a year under their belts, and a brand new pitching coach means a lot of new philosophies and beliefs in the organization. We do know that Molitor is a bit of a blend of a analytics-driven and the old school “go with your gut” manager, while hitting coach James Rowson certainly loves experimenting and challenging his hitters. General Manager Thad Levine and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey rely more on data than their predecessors and I’m sure they’d be far more open to keeping Ohtani a two-way player than the Terry Ryan front office. On the medical side, we loathe the training staff on an annual basis, but it feels as if every team’s fans has complaints about their medical staff. Overall, I don’t think the Twins would rate among the best here, but I’m sure they’d be middle of the pack to above average.
“Major League, Minor League, and Spring Training facilities”
Target Field is still very new and I’m sure the amenities are near the best in the league, and there’s not really anything negative to say about Rochester, Chattanooga, Cedar Rapids, and Fort Myers. This is an easy bar to clear.
“Resources for Shohei’s cultural assimilation”
“A detailed plan for integrating Shohei into the organization”
Clearly Ohtani will get an interpreter. Beyond that, I have no idea what Ohtani and his agency want. It sounds like he wants to fit in with American culture, but how does one do that? As for being accepted into the organization, we could probably have him sit down with Eduardo Escobar because that guy will talk with practically anybody. That’s a bit of a joke, but more seriously I wonder if the Twins will talk about the accommodations they made for Byungho Park when he came to America two years ago. Let’s just hope they avoid mentioning that Park is heading back to Korea, though.
“Why the city and franchise are a desirable place to play”
We should probably hire Indignant Minnesotan to sell him on the pros of Minnesota. As for the baseball side, if Ohtani isn’t interested in making millions of dollars yet, perhaps he also doesn’t care as much about being in the spotlight. We don’t have the pressure cooker media like New York and Boston and I think all of us would consider that a plus. Meanwhile, the Twins just made the playoffs and are a relatively young team that’s trending upwards, and the addition of Ohtani would add to the stable of controllable talent.
“Relevant marketplace characteristics”
I’ll need your help on this, as I have no idea what this means. Also, I spelled the word as “revelent” about eight times before I figured out why spellcheck was telling me I was wrong.
Overall, I think the Twins have a pretty solid package to put together in an attempt to lure Ohtani to Minnesota. This may not be the top destination available (and I despise the fact that people keep saying the Yankees will end up with him), but I still believe there is a nonzero chance Falvey and Levine are capable of piquing Ohtani’s interest. What do you think? What would you say to Ohtani to encourage him to come to the Twin Cities?