Shohei Otani playing for Japan.

Shohei Otani

Say what you will about this piece…wishful thinking, never going to happen, but the thing is, the Blue Jays have a lot more going for them than people give them credit for when it comes to acquiring Japanese sensation Shohei Otani.  In fact, when you really think about it, Toronto may have one of the best shots going when it comes to signing this incredible player.

If this were 2019, and Otani was 25 years old and a free agent able to sign with any team of his choosing for any amount of money, the chances of him going to one of the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers would be pretty strong.  Lucky for the Blue Jays however, and every other team for that matter, because Otani is coming over at the age of 23 (and will be treated like any other international player under the age of 25), it gives the rest of the league a fighting chance to acquire this rare talent.

Here’s a breakdown of why the Blue Jays have a far better shot of getting Otani than most people think.  Keep in mind this is a fun piece.

Considering that Otani wants to both hit and pitch, you have to figure the likelihood of him going to the American League far more probable.  It’s the land of the designated hitter, and on days when Otani isn’t pitching, it’ll be a simple move to plug him in as the DH.  Assuming he’d prefer to play in the American League because it provides him with the best opportunity to hit, that leaves 15 teams for him to choose from…but lets just see if we can narrow down this list of candidate teams a little further shall we.

In order for a major league team to acquire Otani’s services, he’ll have to be posted by his Japanese club, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.  Part of this process involves the big league team paying a posting fee of $20 million to the Ham Fighters.  $20 million may not seem like a crazy amount for a major league franchise, especially when it comes to signing a player as good as Otani, but one has to think this dollar figure may still be a bit too rich for some teams.  Based on their prior instances of frugality, lets assume this posting fee will be too much for both Tampa Bay and Oakland.

One has to imagine that Otani doesn’t want to play for a team in the midst of a complete re-build.  So lets remove Detroit, Kansas City, the White Sox, and even Baltimore from the teams Otani might sign with.  That leaves nine teams remaining who have a legitimate shot of landing Otani…the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, Twins, Astros, Angels, Mariners, and Rangers.

Otani has made it perfectly clear his main motivation for coming to Major League Baseball is because he wants to play against the very best.  As we all know, there’s no division in Major League Baseball tougher than the AL East.  Not trying to sound overly cocky, it’s just the truth.  So if Otani really wants to prove himself, he’ll take things a step further by choosing to play in the toughest division in the toughest league in the world.  If this is the case, the teams remaining on Otani’s list has now been reduced to three…the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays.

It’s impossible to predict what the chances of Otani signing with the Blue Jays are.  But considering the factors described above, if Toronto plays their cards right, they have as good a shot as almost any other ball club.  Obviously New York and Boston have a strong track record when it comes to acquiring many of the best players from Japan (e.g. Masahiro Tanaka, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka), and they’re probably the front runners to acquire Otani as well.  Considering that so many things we’ve been seeing from Otani go against what’s considered the norm though, I wouldn’t put it past him to spurn the mighty Yankees and Red Sox in favour of choosing a dark horse team like the Blue Jays.