Cashman: Push for Ohtani will be 'aggressive'

December 1st, 2017

STAMFORD, Conn. -- No one has hurled 100 innings while logging 300 at-bats in a Major League campaign since Babe Ruth, but if it means fitting Shohei Ohtani for pinstripes, general manager Brian Cashman said that he is ready to permit the Japanese standout to both pitch and hit for the Yankees next season.

Cashman broke his weeks-long silence regarding Ohtani on Friday morning, leaving no question about how seriously the Yankees are planning to pursue the right-handed pitcher and left-handed slugger over the next three weeks. With a new posting system in place, Ohtani will have until Dec. 22 to select a team, and the Yankees are planning an all-out push.

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"It's a big stage here and it's meant to have the best talent to play on it," Cashman said. "Ohtani represents the next great talent that is available in the world of baseball. This stage is made for players like this, and that's why we are certainly going to be aggressive in this process."

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Ohtani is 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and 624 strikeouts in 543 innings over five seasons with his current team, the Nippon-Ham Fighters. He has a .286/.358/.500 slash line with 48 homers and 166 RBIs in 403 games and 1,035 at-bats over the same time frame.

Cashman said that the Yankees have had eyes on Ohtani since 2012, when he was the Fighters' first pick in the Nippon Professional Baseball draft. This past August, Cashman and assistant GM Jean Afterman traveled to Japan so they could watch Ohtani play in person, expressing their interest by attending games in both Sapporo and Tokyo.

While Ohtani was impacted by a right ankle injury that required surgery in November, Cashman believes that the 23-year-old phenom that he saw in those contests will fit in perfectly with the up-and-coming core of "Baby Bombers" like Greg Bird, , and .

The Yankees' rotation for 2018 projects to include Severino, , and . Free agent has expressed his interest in returning, though Cashman said on Friday that there have been no developments to report.

"It's a fun bunch that we have," Cashman said. "I had a chance to personally witness Ohtani pitch, how he interacted with his teammates, the camaraderie that he had with the team. I think he'd be a perfect fit for us. He's someone that our new manager, our coaching staff and our players would enjoy having a great deal."

What matters most in race to woo Ohtani?

Hideki Matsui, the MVP of the 2009 World Series, is expected to assist the Yankees as they attempt to convince Ohtani that he belongs in New York. They also could call upon Tanaka, who recently declined to opt out of his contract in part because of his stated affinity for the organization.

Cashman said that the Yankees have been not-so-secretly preparing for Ohtani's availability for some time, pointing out that the team picked up $1.5 million in international bonus pool money as part of the late July trade with the Athletics that netted Gray.

Earlier this month, the Yankees added another $250,000 in a trade with the Marlins, increasing their available bonus pool to $3.5 million. Only the Rangers ($3.535 million) are able to offer more to Ohtani, who is forgoing a much larger future payday by opting to come to the Majors now.

"I'm certainly hopeful that he sees all the characteristics that the New York Yankees would have to offer," Cashman said. "He's a very dynamic, unique player who can play both sides of the ball. He's an exciting talent. This franchise certainly spent a long time scouting this player."

Recently, the Yankees received what Cashman described as a "very detailed, specific" email from the Commissioner's Office, informing all clubs about the latest developments in the posting system and a potential time frame for its resolution. 

Attached to that digital missive was a lengthy questionnaire from Ohtani on behalf of his agent, Nez Balelo of CAA. Cashman said that the Yankees spent a lot of time putting their best foot forward on the homework assignment, involving a number of different departments.

"We took great pains in an effort to educate him and his family and his representation about who the New York Yankees are and what we bring, whether it's in that clubhouse, the locker room, the facilities, the dynamics of our franchise," Cashman said.

"We have great ownership here that's been in place now as a family for over 40 years, with a winning legacy that's second to none. I think the Steinbrenner family brand equals the Yankees brand, in that the Yankees equal winning and the Steinbrenners also represent winning. That should be an attractive quality to anybody that's looking to play at the highest level."