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Article: Sho Time: Could The Twins Really Land Ohtani?

shohei ohtani
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 26 November 2017 - 08:06 PM

Last week's renewal of the Nippon Professional Baseball posting system made it all but official: Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani is coming to the major leagues.

He's expected to be posted this weekend, opening a 21-day open negotiation window, and $20 million is all it will take to procure his rights from the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Every team in baseball will rightfully want in on that action. Could the Minnesota Twins, unshy about their interest, somehow find a way to land the potentially game-changing phenom?

For a number of reasons, they might actually be among his very most appealing options.Flexibility
By all accounts, Ohtani is adamant about carrying on his legacy as a two-way player in the United States. Given his position of leverage in negotiations, he can make that a hard-line demand if he wishes, and plenty of teams will be ready to meet it.

Sure, he'd be able to bat during starts and maybe draw semi-regular pinch-hitting appearances with a National League club. But is he looking for something more? The ability to start at DH a few times between his turns on the mound? That would be an AL-only option.

Would the Twins be amenable to such an arrangement? Thad Levine says so. "I think we'd let him do whatever he damn well pleases," the Minnesota GM half-joked recently. And why not? His team is almost uniquely positioned to accommodate Ohtani. The Twins used the DH role as a rotating post in 2017 and could do so again next year.

One thing that would typically hold a team back from being open to such usage is risk factor -- it's hard to justify exposing a young pitcher to such added injury hazard, and deviation in standard routine, when you're committed for $20-30 million per year long-term. But given the low up-front financial commitment for Ohtani, clubs like the Twins figure to be more open-minded.

Speaking of finances, here's another area where Minnesota gains a relative edge:

By recently voiding their $3 million offer to Dominican infielder Jelfry Marte over a vision issue, the Twins bolstered their international pool. As things stand, only the Rangers or Yankees would be able to offer more, and not by much.

On one hand, this isn't such a big deal. Ohtani could sign with a team other than those three, and while his bonus would be smaller, it's a pittance relative to what he figures to earn down the line and through endorsements. Then again, nothing in this life is guaranteed. The 23-year-old made about $2 million in annual salary while in Japan, so he has yet to really hit the jackpot and now he'll have to wait a while under MLB's service clock rules. Minnesota's ability to offer almost $2 million more up-front than, say, Seattle (said to be making a full-court press for Ohtani) could hold some serious weight.

Of course, this is all subject to change because teams can trade for more international bonus pool money. The Twins acquired $500K from Washington in the Brandon Kintzler trade – part of the reason for their favorable current position. They could try to get more. Or they could trade from their copious stock and add pieces from another club looking to go all-out for Ohtani. Another wrinkle.

It's safe to say Ohtani will prioritize a winning club that holds realistic short-term championship aspirations. The Twins, fresh off a postseason appearance with one of the youngest and most talented offensive cores in the league, stack up well in this regard – albeit not as well as other suitors like the Dodgers, Cubs or Yankees. But they do check the box and right now Minnesota is one of the most pitching-friendly destinations in the world.

Joe Schmit reported that the Twins have hired a new trainer with Japanese ties. Mike Berardino notes that the Twins have a "strong working relationship" with Nez Balelo, hired on as Ohtani's agent, and Minnesota has worked recently with Ohtani's team in Japan, selling Michael Tonkin's rights to the Fighters a few weeks back.

Now, is any of this necessarily meaningful? No. But they are tidbits worth keeping in mind. One tie that would really serve to lure Ohtani is signing free agent starter Yu Darvish. Ohtani has a known affinity for the right-hander, and wore his No. 11 in NPB as an homage.

And for what it's worth, Levine is quite familiar with Darvish, as he was assistant GM in Texas when the Rangers brought him over from Japan six years ago. Over the weekend he said he's been in "active" conversations with Darvish's agent and called the righty a priority.

Signing both Darvish and Ohtani would be a splash of almost unthinkable magnitude, but it's not an impossible thought. And what a way it would be to set this rotation up for the next five years.

A Distant Second?
With all the above being considered, I think you could make a reasonable argument for the Twins landing second on Ohtani's list of preferences, or at least in the top five (especially if they could land Darvish). But the problem is that No. 1 on that list feels overwhelmingly likely, if not inevitable. Ohtani is destined to be a Yankee.

John Harper of the New York Daily News wrote as much last week and it's hard to disagree with his conclusion. The Yankees can offer everything the Twins can and then some. They can pay him (slightly) more. They can give him DH at-bats between starts. They're a bona fide championship contender. They already have Masahiro Tanaka, another former NPB superstar, locked into their rotation long-term. And of course there is the huge market of NYC and all it entails. His earning potential outside of game checks is vastly higher there, so as is usually the case when the Yankees are involved, money will talk.

It's a David versus Goliath scenario and the Twins have typically not fared well against the Yanks in such contests historically. But it's fun to dream on and, up until a deal somewhere is officially announced within the next month, we can do so without being utterly delusional.

Regardless of where he ends up signing, the Ohtani derby will be like nothing else we've seen before in the major leagues, and his game on the field figures to follow suit.

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#2 amjgt


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Posted 26 November 2017 - 09:05 PM

Just for the sake of argument, let's say Darvish and Ohtani sign here on the same day...

That passes Parise/Suter, right?

I would argue, other than actual championships, it's the biggest moment in MN Sports history.
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#3 Carole Keller

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Posted 26 November 2017 - 09:07 PM

“Why do you build me up (build me up) buttercup, baby
Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around”

I’ve been trying to keep an even keel with all this Ohtani business, but every report, article, interview and tweet is making me crazy! Dare I begin to hope that just maybe ... ? Many have given good arguments as to why Minnesota would be a very good landing spot for Ohtani, reasons I don’t disagree with, reasons that I think are stronger than other teams, but I just can’t quite get myself there. While I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else ... okay, I do live somewhere else, but I’ll be coming home when I retire because it’s home ... I just don’t see a young man from Japan wanting to come to Minnesota. That’s the dreaded sinking feeling that grounds my hopes.
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#4 Han Joelo

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Posted 26 November 2017 - 09:14 PM

Have the Yankees hired a manager yet?  Seems like knowing who your manager will be might be important.


I'm in full conspiracy mode.  I.e, when Falvey was hiring GM candidates, Levine laid his cards (resume) on the table, and then...dropped a Darvish baseball card on top of it all.  And then, very dramatically, dropped an Ohtani card on TOP of the Darvish card.  This has been preordained.  Of course, then you have to wonder about the whole Marte thing, and how underhanded it would have been to void that contract over some technicality, like he tested at 20/19 vision instead of 20/18 or something.  Yuck.


Why follow in Tanaka/Matsui's footsteps in NY, when you can pave your own way in MN?


I'm overly optimistic about this.

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#5 twinsfanstreif


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Posted 26 November 2017 - 09:33 PM

I agree that NY seems like the obvious choice but let me throw in some factors you didn't mention. NYC's cost of living is significantly higher than in Minnesota and taxes are also considerably higher, their advantage in money is negated almost immediately because of that. Plus sponsors will most likely come from Japan anyways so the market of the city won't matter that much anyways. Also Otani is from the small city of Oshu which is around 120k people (roughly the size of Rochester, MN). He currently plays on a team in Sapporo which is around 2 million (roughly the size of Kansas City) but no where near the 20 million of New York (metro). That might not be a factor at all but some people, especially when they're from a small town, want nothing to do with a city the magnitude and density of NYC. Is that the case here? I have no clue but you never know.
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#6 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 26 November 2017 - 09:47 PM

An interesting aspect of this deal is that if you're confident Darvish brings you Ohtani, it makes all the sense in the world to wildly overpay for Darvish, up to as much as $200m.


Yu could see the market for his services go insanely out of proportion thanks to Ohtani. Dropping an extra $40m on Darvish is a no-brainer if it locks you into Ohtani at $500k for several seasons.

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#7 IndianaTwin


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Posted 26 November 2017 - 10:20 PM

This is an aside from the question of who will sign him.

In terms of him being able to hit, it seems like folks have been suggesting he hit on the days he pitches, plus 1-2 times between starts. Doesn’t it make more sense to have him hit 2-3 times on other days, but still use the DH on days he pitches? Otherwise, they’d need to use a pinch hitter each time the pitcher’s spot comes up after he’s been relieved.
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#8 Blake


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Posted 26 November 2017 - 10:20 PM

Okay, now this makes for an interesting off-season. Probably more interesting than Jack Morris, fur coat and all, blowing into town trying to get the Twins to sign him back in the day.



#9 DocBauer


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Posted 26 November 2017 - 10:49 PM

I have myself sitting in 2 different chairs as I view this possibility, as logical and dispassionate as I can attempt to be.


Come on, me love to hate them, but it's the Yankees for goodness sake. Initial money, even future money, is NOT an issue. They can pay him only slightly more, with an even higher cost of living, as mentioned in the article. Wherever he signs, if he does well, Big money will be available from the Twins, the Yankees, or whomever. BUT, a Japanese import or not, there would simply have to be more endorsement money up front by being a Yankee, yes? They are a legitimate post season option. They have a history with Tanaka pitching there and pitching successfully. And again...ugh...they ARE the Yankees.


Money is initially the same. It would appear he's used to a smaller city environment, and while there would absolutely be press and attention, the pressure in Minnesota would be far less. With no set DH, the team is as open an opportunity as you will find to a low him the opportunity to hit on some sort of regular basis, at least initially, without compromising roster/lineup construction. The Twins are also coming off a winning year, and the post season, (brief as it may have been), play in one of the best parks in MLB, have a manger in place, also have some Japanese connections in place, and have a fine offense and defense that should only get better.

The key, in my mind, is reports I have here on TD, (Can't remember now who reported it, and can't substantiate it at the moment), that he is A] Not necessarily interested in playing for a big city team, and B] Would prefer a younger team, closer to his age, and to be a part of that team's development.

Now, the very fact that he has played in smaller/mid market teams in Japan, that he is young, and that he is determined to move to MLB now, rather than wait until he might make the move down the road as a higher priced international FA, (or am I missing something here in regard to changes in the rules), would seem to lend at least some credence to this report. If this rings even somewhat true, then Darvish signing on or not, the Twins should be right at the top of his list.
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#10 sploorp


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Posted 26 November 2017 - 11:12 PM


Why follow in Tanaka/Matsui's footsteps in NY, when you can pave your own way in MN?


I'm overly optimistic about this.

Ditto that.I have to keep reminding myself that it's probably not going to happen, but I don't seem to be listening to myself at all.

#11 Twins33


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Posted 27 November 2017 - 12:51 AM

Just for the sake of argument, let's say Darvish and Ohtani sign here on the same day...
That passes Parise/Suter, right?
I would argue, other than actual championships, it's the biggest moment in MN Sports history.

Yes. A whole lot easier to convince a MN boy and a Wisconsin boy to come "home" so definitely yes.

#12 old nurse

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Posted 27 November 2017 - 04:43 AM

Ohtani grew up in a less populated area of Japan. Other than the New York hubris of thinking they are they canter of the universe for everyone there is nothing that says Ohtani would be attracted to them

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#13 old nurse

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Posted 27 November 2017 - 04:56 AM



Just for the sake of argument, let's say Darvish and Ohtani sign here on the same day...

That passes Parise/Suter, right?

I would argue, other than actual championships, it's the biggest moment in MN Sports history.

The hockey signings become meaningless as time, and early playoff exits goes on. It is big because the "One Of Our Own" syndrome that affects people here.As time goes on the pair becomes closer to Hughes/Nolasco

#14 diehardtwinsfan



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Posted 27 November 2017 - 05:17 AM

It's probably worth pointing out Ohtani's life style choices in Japan. He doesn't seem to be the kind of guy who wants to live under the constant lights that NYC will require. He basically lives like a hermit in a dorm in Japan. Even with his "small" salary, he could live better and flashier if he wanted...


To me, this is a major strike against NY. He wont' get privacy if he wants that.


Ultimately, we don't know what he wants, but I like the fact that the Twins are doing what they can to get him. Hopefully, we do.

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#15 Thrylos


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Posted 27 November 2017 - 07:52 AM

I get the argument that Minneapolis might be a better-suited place for him, since NY, LA, Boston are "too big", according to some discussions regarding his personal preferences.On the other hand, the Seattle metro is just 200K people bigger than the MPLS-SP metro area and San Diego's is right about the Twin Cities' size.Both have direct flights to Tokyo.Both have better weather and living conditions than Minneapolis/St. Paul, esp. San Diego, and much more Japanese population.


Other than trying to sell the young core and potentially competing for a while and being part of it, I just don't see the Twins being able to sell much more, other maybe Fort Myers, which is a much better ST facility than anything in AZ, and Target Field and his agent asked for some reason teams to disclose details about facilities.  

But, yeah, the Twin Cities kinda such as far as living environment compared to other places in the majors...

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#16 gunnarthor


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Posted 27 November 2017 - 08:53 AM

It's a pipedream. He'll sign with the Yankees for only a million and then the Yankees will sign the best former Braves prospects with the savings he gives them. Then they'll beat us in the postseason next year and win the world series where Ohtani throws a CG no-hitter in game seven while hitting a grandslam in the 9th. And then theYankees give him a 10y/200m extension that they promised him all along. 



#17 myjah


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Posted 27 November 2017 - 09:04 AM

Some observations:

  • I read a rumor somewhere (can't remember exactly where) that Ohtani would actually prefer to be the only Japanese star on his team. That stuck out to me because it seems to go against common assumptions.
  • The Yankees have less flexibility at DH than the Twins, so I think that is one area where the Twins have the upper hand over the Yankees (and it seems like a particularly important thing to Ohtani). 



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#18 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 27 November 2017 - 09:16 AM

Is there any timeline on a decision? I haven't seen anything.

#19 Nick Nelson

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Posted 27 November 2017 - 09:22 AM


Is there any timeline on a decision? I haven't seen anything.

Expectation is he'll be posted on Friday, then he has 21 days to choose a team, so he'll need decide by ~Dec 21st

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#20 PDX Twin

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Posted 27 November 2017 - 09:40 AM


The Twins are also coming off a winning year, and the post season, (brief as it may have been), play in one of the best parks in MLB, have a manger in place, also have some Japanese connections in place, and have a fine offense and defense that should only get better.


Is that because we think Ohtani is our savior? :)

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It's great to get out of the cellar ... as long as you bring something with you.

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