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Yes, the Rays could really sign Shohei Ohtani

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How to respond to people who think you’re crazy

Japan v Netherlands - International Friendly Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images

Earlier this week, I presented 10 reasons why the Rays may be able to sign Shohei Ohtani, but the naysayers have and will continue to point out some counter arguments that are deeply flawed.

I’d like to address a few of them here in no certain order.

  • Ohtani will want to play on West Coast because it’s closer to Japan

Really? How often can players get away to locations that take over 12 hours to fly to, which is what it would take for Ohtani to get to Japan from the West Coast? Maybe at the All-Star break if he doesn’t make the cut, and not so if he performs as expected and is part of those festivities. This point is moot, really.

  • Ohtani will want to be in a city filled with a large Japanese population

As pointed out above, we don’t know this to be true. While we’re sure he’ll want to be comfortable wherever he plays, that doesn’t mean he needs a major Japanese population around to get there. Personally, I’d love to go live in other countries, and if I did, I wouldn’t go off looking for similar populations when I got there. Quite the opposite, actually. Same could be true for Ohtani.

  • The lure of playing for large market teams will be too strong

We really don’t know where he falls on this point. Could be correct, but let’s remember that his largest marketing opportunities are in Japan. Also, if he does become a two-way star, it doesn’t matter which team he plays for, he’ll get as much marketing as he can handle.

Remember the “Bo knows” ads? Well Ohtani would likely get that kind of opportunity.

  • Other Rays starters will want to pitch as many games as possible

The key in this issue is the total innings, not the games pitched. As Chris Archer recently pointed out to Jacob Faria (tweet above), a quality start is not the statistic many follow, it’s when you’ve done all you can and the manager has to rip the ball out of your hand.

Should the Rays go to a 6-man rotation, it’s possible that they’ll also be able to expect more IP — with a possible slight uptick in velocity — from their starters. Extra rest may also keep them healthier, something many pitchers may be interested in if they want to cash in on big contracts when they become FAs. If they’re able to throw 27 starts versus 32 and throw just one more inning on average in each of those starts, they’re essentially throwing a very similar innings total on the season.

For example, Chris Archer started 34 games and threw 201 innings for an average of 5.9 innings per start. If he can manage 28 starts with an average of 6.9 innings per start within a modified rotation, his innings total on the year add up to 193 IP.

Doesn’t seem that far-fetched that he’d be open to the idea, and it may even allow for more complete games, something that many pitchers point to as major successes and can use as leverage in contract negotiations.

  • The Yankees and other MLB teams can offer him a larger bonus

LOL. Ok, so here we have a player that’s foregoing more than $100M to head over to MLB earlier than most players would (based on finances) and we’re expected to believe those few hundred thousands (or millions) are going to be the final straw between one team or another? Who’s paying attention here?

He’s already expected to fetch upwards of $20M per season in marketing within Japan alone, so I’m fairly certain he’ll be able to forego the small bonus MLB has allowed teams to squeeze out for him if it means going to a place where he’ll be, you know, happy!

Besides, the Odds are in the Rays favor... sort of

Driving all of these rebuttals home are the odds in Vegas for where Ohtani will land.

BetDSI.eu has opened odds on which team will sign Shohei Ohtani as well as his projected season stats for batting average and earned run average. Oddsmakers view the Yankees as the team most likely to sign Ohtani, but the odds are tight among the top 4 contenders (read: the teams with $3 mil to spend), with the Rays solidly in the next tier of contenders:

Shohei Ohtani team for 2018 MLB season

New York Yankees +175
Los Angeles Dodgers +300
Seattle Mariners +350
Texas Rangers +500

Tampa Bay Rays +1200

Los Angeles Angels +1200

Chicago Cubs +1200

Boston Red Sox +1400

Field (any team not listed above) +1000

Tied for fifth place in the bookmakers odds is enough to say you’re not crazy. The Rays have a legitimate shot at signing Ohtani.