MLB Free Agency: Shohei Otani is a Must-Sign for New York Yankees

Shohei Otani appears set to hit Major League Baseball this winter, as he will be the next Japanese star to make the move to the United States. The guy, better known as the modern-day Babe Ruth, will certainly have multiple teams looking to bring him in for the 2018 season; one of which will be the New York Yankees, who are no strangers to this process.

Four years ago, they were in the same situation in trying to convince another Japanese star to come to New York; Masahiro Tanaka, who eventually signed a seven-year, $155 million deal and one he decided to not opt-out of this winter.

Tanaka has been very good for the New York Yankees in his four years and he was excellent in the postseason this past year; getting the Yankees to within one game of the World Series. Now, Tanaka has to hope his fellow countryman will make the jump from Japan to New York.

In 2017, the Yankees showed they are in a win-now stage. Most thought they would be in a rebuilding phase with a lot of their younger talent. However, that wasn’t the case. Instead, they won 91 games and got to seven games in the American League Championship Series. If not for Justin Verlander looking like his 2011 self, the Yankees, and not the Houston Astros, are playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Fall Classic.

With that said, for the Yankees to try to get back to where they were this past season, they need a major addition. Their lineup is fine and their bullpen arguably might be the best in baseball.

But their starting rotation is where they could use an upgrade. Tanaka is sticking around for another three years. He joins Luis Severino, who finished third in the A.L. Cy Young voting, Sonny Gray, who is still getting adjusted to pitching in New York.

After that, there’s Jordan Montgomery, who pitched well in his rookie year and then it’s a lot of question marks. Does CC Sabathia return to the Yankees for a 10th season after spending the last nine with them? He’s a free agent who wants to continue his career. Michael Pineda seems like he’ll be pitching elsewhere after an injury-riddled and inconsistent tenure in the Bronx.

So with those question marks surrounding the Yankees rotation, it makes landing Shohei Otani an even bigger priority. For the last two off-seasons, the Yankees have been on a mission to land young starting pitching.

Some felt that if not for his tragic boating accident, Jose Fernandez might be pitching in New York. The Yankees may have had a plan to land the former Rookie of the Year before his unfortunate death. In several rumored trade proposals, the New York Yankees have always tried for young pitchers, but have come up short.

Back at the trade deadline, they landed Sonny Gray from the Oakland A’s. Gray fits the mold of a younger starter that is controllable for the next two years. Getting Sonny Gray was good, but the Yankees are looking for one more big arm, and that’s Shohei Otani.

The rare thing about Shohei Otani; he’s not just a pitcher, but he can hit very well. In Japan, he’s one of the few players that can not only pitch (really well) but also hit for power and average. He hit .332 with eight home runs and 31 RBI in 65 games this past season.

The one thing that Yankees GM Brian Cashman loves is roster flexibility for his players and being able to use them in different spots. The idea of Shohei Otani being a two-way player and being able to pitch and hit on a regular basis is almost like having a 26th man for a 25-man roster.

That idea alone might be enough for the Yankees to make a full-court press to land Shohei Otani this winter. They would only have to dish out a combined $23 million to do so.

Brian Cashman has tried to land a big-time starting pitcher for over two years. Especially one that is under the age of 26. Shohei Otani is the guy he needs to get for the New York Yankees. Particularly, if they have World Series hopes in 2018.


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