NEW YORK -- For years, the Mets have shied away from international bidding wars, wary of spending too much of their restrictive budget on unknown quantities. But Shohei Ohtani presents a different situation. The Mets are at least intrigued by the possibility of acquiring the Japanese superstar this winter, despite
NEW YORK -- For years, the Mets have shied away from international bidding wars, wary of spending too much of their restrictive budget on unknown quantities. But Shohei Ohtani presents a different situation. The Mets are at least intrigued by the possibility of acquiring the Japanese superstar this winter, despite acknowledging the unlikelihood that they actually will be able to.
"I don't think there's a downside in looking into it," general manager Sandy Alderson said Wednesday at the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla. "I think the only downside is creating a false set of expectations on the part of fans that have to be tempered. This guy could go to any one of 30 teams. At this stage, almost everybody has to be somewhat interested. There's a lot to be learned about the process, as well as what his intentions are."
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Ohtani, 23, is an electrifying two-way player who has expressed his desire both to pitch -- his fastball has been clocked in the triple digits -- and hit in the Major Leagues.
In the past, Ohtani's entrance to the Majors would have sparked a nine-figure bidding war, a la Daisuke Matsuzaka and Masahiro Tanaka. But MLB is in the process of changing its rules regarding the Japanese posting system, which now limits initial contracts to what teams have available in their international bonus pools. As such, Ohtani can make a base salary of only $3.5 million next season -- and he is only likely to make that much if the Rangers, who lead all teams in available bonus pool money, sign him. In addition, the maximum posting fee is $20 million, paid to Ohtani's Japanese club.
The Mets are already longshots in that they spent the vast majority of their bonus pool money on a group of Dominican and Venezuelan prospects in July. But if Ohtani is willing to give up potentially hundreds of millions for the chance to come to MLB before he is an unrestricted free agent, thus necessitating the posting system, it stands to reason he would also forgo an extra million or two to play for his first-choice team.
If they want to acquire Ohtani, then, the Mets must base their sales pitch around their location in New York City, their potential as a playoff team the unique endorsement opportunities those factors provide.
Although the Mets have not heavily scouted Ohtani, Alderson said there is enough of a consensus among scouts and experts around baseball to believe he is a potential superstar.
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"I don't know that anybody has ruled themselves out of the Ohtani sweepstakes at this point, so we certainly wouldn't rule ourselves out at this point," Alderson said. "But that's going to be a very complicated proposition for anybody that is interested. I think it's a little early to know exactly what those complications are even, because the basic parameters haven't been set. I think there's still a lot to be learned in his situation, and how it will ultimately unfold. But to sit here today and say, 'No, we're not interested,' I think would be foolish."
Alderson cited the "novelty factor" of Ohtani's two-way abilities, saying many of the same things he did after signing former college football star Tim Tebow to a Minor League contract last year.
"I think it would be fun to watch him make the attempt, and maybe at some point he will decide to do one or the other," Alderson said. "I say it from time to time, this is an entertainment business. The foundation is baseball, but it is entertainment. And to see someone with that kind of talent potentially do what others have not been able to do, that will be an exciting experience for the team involved, as well as the rest of baseball. I think it's going to be fascinating to see what happens."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.