Otani may be out of Cubs reach, but could open the door for others

Otani may be out of Cubs reach, but could open the door for others

It seems like such a great fit. And, in a perfect world, it is.  The Cubs need young impact arms and Shohei Otani is an 18 year old RHP who reportedly reaches 99 mph.  He was to enter the NPB draft but has apparently made the historic decision to pass that up and instead sign with an MLB team.

That team probably won't be the Cubs.  It's not that they wouldn't want that kind of arm in their system.  It's a simple case of mathematics.  The Cubs have spent $1.5M on Juan Carlos Paniagua and $700,000 on SS Frandy De La Rosa.  That is $2.2M worth of cap space that we know has been spent.  At best it leaves the Cubs with $700,000 left.

The Rangers who have reportedly scouted Otani heavily, have over $2M, as do the Baltimore Orioles.  The Los Angeles Dodgers have also shown a lot of interest and even they can easily beat the Cubs offer.  They have $1.7M.

Not only can't the Cubs outbid the other teams, but the Rangers have established more of a presence thus far in Japan.  They have the successful transition of Yu Darvish that they can point to as well as a track record of developing international amateurs in general.

The only way the Cubs could beat this is to go way over their cap and incur the penalties, which would effectively wipe out the 2013 international pool money they've picked up as a result of having the 2nd worst record in baseball last year.  By next July, the Cubs will have more money to spend than any team but the Astros.

The only way you pass up the opportunity to load up next season is if Otani is a once in a lifetime talent.  Let's say you do spend $3M and steal him from a team like the Rangers or Dodgers, that means your pool goes down to $250K next season.  That's over $4M you lose to sign on a player next year.  It amounts to a $7M+ investment without counting the 100% fines for the overage.  For that money, he better be a lot more polished and MLB ready. The more I hear, the more I don't believe that is the case.  We've heard about his velocity but there appears to be nothing special about his secondaries or his command.   While he undoubtedly has raw talent and a high ceiling, the risk is probably too great for the Cubs to put all their eggs in Otani's basket.

According to Jim Callis of Baseball America, that may be different for other teams.  Teams closer to the bottom, such as Texas, Boston, and Los Angeles may be more willing to pay that price, since they'll never get a shot at the top talent anyway.  So even if the Cubs were willing to pay that penalty, the likelihood is that other teams would have even less fear in doing so.  It's an arms race in which they cannot afford to participate because the cost to them is so much higher.

What Otani's decision means, however, is that perhaps more and more Japanese amateurs will take this route.  Somebody had to be the first to test the waters and Otani has done that.  With the Cubs expected to have money to spend next year and probably the year after, they could soon get their shot at landing the next rising star from Japan.  It just doesn't look like it will happen this year.

Filed under: International players


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  • I'd still offer the 1.1, like an atheist praying on his deathbed. Can't hurt.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    He's not draft-eligible. I'd prefer Stanek, Manaea, or Appel anyway.

  • In reply to tim815:

    So would I, but we're talking about an international pick, not the MLB rule 4 draft. He could be a Japanese Sydd Finch who likes good pizza.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I think, more to the point, I'm not sure I wouldn't rather have Paniagua. He's 4 years older, but he's already shown the ability to throw just as hard and has 3 pitches. The slider, in particular, looks like a 2nd legit out pitch. He's a consistent change up away from being a consistent front end starter prospect.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I'd do that too, but with the money the other teams have, just doesn't look like it's going to be good enough.

  • John,

    Money from the international signing pool not spent this year doesn't carry over til next year does it?
    Considering how shrewd this front office is, I am surprised that they still have that much waiting to be spent. Any ideas where they will use it?

  • In reply to supercapo:

    Not that I know of. The high profile prospects have been signed, so I imagine that the Cubs will sign (if they haven't already) a large pool of lesser known players they like.

    I think this will be their strategy in general. Take a couple of higher profile guys, then spread the money and get as many of the second tier guys as you can. At age 16, there's so much projection left that maybe your best off spreading out the money and minimizing the risk -- and you're bound to find more Castro, W.Castillo, Marmol, Cabrera, Zambranos etc. etc. along the way. None of those guys were really high profile

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Re: Top IFA, I know the Blue Jays signed one of BA's top 10 guys, and then later voided his contract because he was out of shape or something. I assume he remains unsigned. I wonder if another team will bite. Sorry I don't have the name at the moment.

  • In reply to CubsML:

    Luis Castro - 16 year old Venezuelan shortstop, ranked #9 by BA.

  • In reply to CubsML:

    I haven't seen the details but there's lots of red flags if you're an out of shape player at 16 trying to play the most athletically demanding position on the field.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not to mention the red flags of being an out-of-shape shortstop at 46 in a beer league -- I know from experience ! Sigh, "Youth is wasted on the young"....

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    That is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it's probably encouraged in beer leagues.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I suppose, but there had to be something there to justify the original contract and BA ranking. I assume the next contract will be $.50 on the $1, maybe less.

  • In reply to CubsML:

    If you can get him at a bargain, it's worth looking into and you hope you can chalk it up to immaturity.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    I think most of the top 50 IFAs are accounted for. After that, since you're dealing with a cap, many of them are fairly similar. If some of these C+ prospects start doing well in February or March, you'll want to have some left over. It will get spent on quality prospects, but there as here, a star at 16 may have just matured more quickly than others. You don't want a 250 K bonus spent on a kid who won't improve in the DSL.

  • I would offer the $1.1 million and give the best sales pitch I could. There is still one thing those teams cannot offer--they are not the Cubs. The Cubs are being built for the long haul. This guy is 18. He will have time to mature and develop with the Cubs. There are signs to point to that the Cubs plan is working when you look at the number of top 100 prospects we have now as compared to the year before. There is young talent yet to hit 25 years old on the MLB roster now. If he comes to the Cubs, he has the chance to be apart of history. If he succeeds, his fame will be off the charts, his apparel sales will be crazy in the U.S. and overseas, he would instantly become the most famous Japanese player to play in MLB ever.

    I only wish it would work that way. If we are talking about the difference between $1.1., $1.7 or $2 million, it seems the possibilities that exist with the Cubs would outweigh things. I am biased though!

  • In reply to AUBWDE:

    Ha! Maybe a little, as we all are at times. The thing about kids that come from the Pacific Rim is that they take bigger risks leaving their countries and home leagues, they need to be compensated for that risk right off the bat. We've seen players in the past not necessarily welcomed back with open arms when they didn't make it in the MLB and Otani, as a groundbreaker may find it even harder. If I were him, I'd take the guaranteed extra million just in case things don't work out.

  • I am not positive but I thought the Cubs paid Juan Carlos Paniagua 1.5M and that would leave .7M left to spend providing they haven't spent it on lesser prospects already.

  • In reply to John57:

    You could be right. The last figure I saw was 1.1M but I think it may have gotten crossed with his previous signing bonus. Looks like 1.5M might be the correct figure from everything else I checked.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I went ahead and corrected that. My apologies. It was stated as 1.5M on the Cubs website, so I'll go with that figure.

  • In reply to John57:

    Yeah, I think you're right. He got 1.1M with the Yankess if memory serves.

  • Seems like odd timing for a prospect to declare for the international draft, when teams have already spent large portions of their annual allotments for signing players. Unless he's got a deal already with a team who hasn't used their money, like rangers or dodgers, or he is now just signaling his intentions to enter draft in 2013 when more teams will have more money to spend or bid. With only 2 months or so until 2013, maybe Otani will wait for next year to start the bidding. (It's not clear to me if the July date was just the start of the new rules or would also be the new start date for each new season's International budget year. If the year starts in January, and not july, then the cubs may not be out of the picture for this player, if they like him enough to spend on him from next years budget. Would bud the commisioner really over complicate things by having the annual international budget year start in July just because the agreement came then?

  • In reply to eddie35:

    Bingo! I think we have a winner here.

    Great insight Eddie and it's something I considered putting in the post, but since it's pure speculation, I decide against it. That said, I agree 100% with yoiu that Otani probably has something worked out already. It's a big risk to do what he's doing and it's hard for me to imagine he'd take that risk without some assurances. And, as you said, the timing is curious and the fact that the Rangers haven't been as aggressive in the international market as they have in the past are huge clues. Too much to be a coincidence. My money is on them.

  • In reply to eddie35:

    Money reloads on July 1st.

  • In reply to tim815:

    Technically, June 15th. There is a signing moratorium for the two weeks in between the 15th to July 1st. So if Otani doesn't sign by mid-June the Cubs would have a crack at him, but I don't expect him to wait that long.

  • Paniagua's looking like a steal. Good job by our FO.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:


  • John, I believe that Otani could, and probably should, wait until next summer to sign. Several teams, including the Cubs, will have considerably more than $2.3 million available in their IFA draft pools next July. Or perhaps he plans to attend a U.S. junior college and apply for the 2013 Rule 4 draft.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    The question is how much more is he worth than $2M? My feeling is that's already a pretty good deal for him based on his current talents.

    Its' already a risky venture for him and I think he assumes a lot more risk forgoing the draft and extending it another 8-9 months. If something goes wrong...i.e he gets hurt or loses velo, which is by far his biggest asset right now, he stands to lose a lot. IF there is 2M plus on the table, I think he takes the money in a heartbeat.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And I also want to add that other teams can add to the ante at a much lower risk/cost than the Cubs. If these other teams start to feel that Otani may be interested in a wink-wink deal for July, then they can simply raise the bonus and incur the penalties rather than lose him next July.

  • Do we know Otani is going to sign before the free agent pool money resets? I can't help but feel like his adviser/agent/whatever knows good and well that teams will have a lot more money at that time, and can use teams with a bigger pool (Cubs, Astros, ect.) as leverage against deals they don't like with teams such as the Dodgers, Rangers, and Orioles.

    The only advantage I see any of those three teams having is the potential of pitching with Yu Darvish in Texas.

    We also have no idea if there's going to be any sort of signing eligibility issues, like we saw with Soler.

  • Sorry, I've been traveling elsewhere in Asia; back in Tokyo, where I should be able to provide a nugget or two of info. On the timing of all this, it is pretty simple. He had to declare for the NPB draft in the coming days. If he entered that, very low initial salary, lottery amongst the Japanese pro teams to draft him (no certainty of where he'll play), and a lock in for 8 or 9 years before free agency (unless posted by his team in the interim). Though lots of upside in that he'd probably pitching for his Japan pro team club most or all of next season and the local endorsements would be big.

    Given his local deadlines, I tend to agree that he already has a fairly firm Dodger or Texas offer.

  • In reply to TokyoCraig:

    Thanks Craig, great info!

  • Hey John,

    There is a pretty interesting discussion on another board about why good teams that have a winning record won't just blow past the spending limits and forfeit the ability to sign a guy to more than a 250k contract the next year.

    I see that as an extremely viable strategy for a team like the Rangers or Yankees who have plenty of money and are consistently good. Why not blow over your cap in a given year and just go out and get the best 8 guys by outbidding everyone else on it. Yes, the next year you'd have to look for diamonds in the rough, but as you referenced in a comment or the article, Castro was only signed for 50k.

    I'd rather get the top 8 guys every other year and just do a great scouting on the off years than stay within my limits on these guys. I really don't see a downside to it, especially if the teams with the smaller pools aren't going to get the top guys by any other means anyways. Might as well just go out and get as many of them as possible since if everyone stays within their IFA slot from new CBA, all the good teams will be searching for diamonds in the rough anyways.

    Your thoughts on this being a new way to exploit CBA?

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