Shohei Ohtani will get to pick which major league team he plays for in 2018, and all it cost him is a hundred million dollars or two. He has leverage, and he has certainly paid a premium for it. I’m not saying that he can make Theo Epstein bark like a dog if he wants to, but he can probably make Theo Epstein bark like a dog if he wants to.
Ohtani wants to hit and pitch. It doesn’t seem like picking one or the other is an option for him. It’s what he wants, and when he wants something, the pursuing team has to react like the people in Good Will Hunting when Chuckie asks for a retainer.
Allegedly, a team’s situation, for them, would be concurrently improved if they just agreed to let Ohtani hit and pitch.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy does not see Otani as a two-way player in the NL.
“I don’t think that will work,” he said. “You’re talking more about something that would work in the American League as a DH. There’s a lot of throwing, and wear and tear, and then you have to go out and pitch.”
For the record, I think Bochy is absolutely correct. Baseball seasons are too damned long for regular starting pitchers. The grind is exhausting enough for them. Taking away one of their four precious rest days so they can run around and throw more seems like a bad idea. It’s far more realistic for Ohtani to succeed as a pitcher/DH, but even then, it’s putting a lot more stress on his body than most pitchers have to deal with. As exciting as the prospect of Ohtani becoming a great two-way player is, there’s a reason the Red Sox converted Babe Ruth to a full-time outfielder.
However, Ohtani is screaming REEEE-TAAAAINNNERRR, as is his right. He wants a team that will let him do both at first. In other words, he wants the problems exist before the solution is applied. Right now, the problems are just theories of what will probably happen. Ohtani isn’t convinced. When you’re one of the best in the world at two different things, both of which are extremely difficult, you’ve earned the right to be skeptical about limitations being placed on you by others.
This means that the Giants can’t listen to Bochy if they want Ohtani. They’ll have to explain during negotiations that, ha ha, we love our skipper, but don’t forget that he works for us. And I really do think that’s what will happen. Because what’s the ultimate downside if the Giants sign Ohtani and let him pitch and hit? That he gets hurt doing one or the other, and it forces them to scramble to fill two roster spots. The Giants would also be out the $300,000 signing bonus and the major league minimum salary. (Edit: And the $20 million posting fee, but what’s that among friends?)
What’s the ultimate downside if the Giants don’t agree to let Ohtani hit and pitch? That he signs with whichever of the other 29 teams will agree and the Giants miss a chance to employ one of the best players in the world.
The downside for the first one isn’t much of a downside compared to the second one. If there’s risk, it’s absolutely dwarfed by the possible reward. So while Bochy might be right, the Giants will have to ignore him if they’re going to be one of the teams in the final mix for Ohtani. If, for whatever reason, he decides like the Giants are the best fit for him — maybe he likes a challenge! — they’ll have to figure out a way to keep him as at least a part-time position player.
And, boy, that would be an absolute pip. Just a real crackerjack of a good time, you know? Imagine the Giants getting him, just for a second ... ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, it would be so much fun.
Time’s up, and the Giants probably aren’t going to get him. But they’re probably not going to eliminate their chances before they even get to the negotiating table, either.
(Note: I’m going with the “Ohtani” spelling because that’s what was on his WBC jersey, but there’s apparently an ongoing debate. Don’t @ me.)