The Rundown: Shohei Otani Shrouded in Mystery, Kris Bryant is Now Caffeinated, Cubs Address Russell Situation

You’ve no doubt heard the stories about Shohei Otani, the two-way Japanese phenom by now. The young man who can generate the same velocity out of his hand as he can off of his bat has been one of the sport’s hottest topics over the last year. Initially projected to land a contract in the $200 million range, the international restrictions put forth in the recent CBA meant that he’d be subject to much smaller bonus pools.

It’d be ludicrous to pass up the kind of money offered to only the most elite veterans just to come stateside a year early, but that’s exactly what it seem(ed/s) Otani is/was (maybe) willing to do. Confused by all the amorphous wording? Get used to it. Just as it’s hard to determine whether Otani is better as a starting pitcher or an outfielder, it’s been very difficult to get a read on his true intentions.

Jeff Passan further described the cloak of mystery that shrouds the mythical ballplayer in a recent piece for Yahoo Sports.

Earlier this year, a National League general manager tasked a few trusted employees with a secret mission: Find out everything you can about Shohei Otani. One of the employees came back a few days later with some sparse details but a useful nugget of information: If Otani really does bring his 102-mph fastball and powerful bat to Major League Baseball from Japan during the upcoming winter, he wants to play for a big-market team with a large Japanese population. A few days after that, another of the employees delivered what he thought was some solid dope: When Otani does reach the major leagues, he really would love to head to a small market, blend in and avoid any more distractions than the ones inherent in his arrival.

The GM laughed. He doesn’t know if it’s intentional subterfuge, tongue-in-cheek trolling or out-of-the-loop sources trying to pass themselves off as in-the-know insiders, but his experience with Otani matches that of four other GMs who spoke with Yahoo Sports about the 22-year-old and said variations of the same thing: They have absolutely no idea what’s going on with him.

Where it gets really interesting, though, is in the talk of theoretical ways for teams to circumvent the new, harder cap on international spending. Some teams — like the Cubs, Dodgers, Astros, Padres, and Giants, all of whom have been linked to Otani in some way — have only $300,000 in bonus money available. Then there’s the fact that Otani would be subject to the same rookie wage scale of $550,000 for three years, followed by three years of arbitration.

While that kind of jack would be life-changing for you or me, it would represent about a 98 percent drop in salary for a guy who could be looking at $25 million AAV in a free-agent contract. Okay, fine, so they just negotiate a gentleman’s agreement in which the young star agrees to the lower amount with the understanding that they’ll tear it up and give him massive increases after the first year.

Except that you can guarantee MLB will be all over such shenanigans, much like they were with the Red Sox and their attempts to circumvent international pool rules. Of course, having any kind of deal in place would require that Otani hire an agent, which no one is sure has happened. At least no one to whom Passan spoke, and dude is connected enough that someone would have known.

I don’t doubt Otani’s talents, largely because I’ve seen the YouTube highlights and he’s taken part in some international competition. But with an injury that kept him out of the WBC this year and his continued radio silence, this whole thing is starting to develop a Sidd Finch-y smell.

And maybe that’s a good thing. After all, baseball could use some more tall tales.

Bryant drinks coffee

Kris Bryant doesn’t drink, doesn’t swear, and his worst vice might be having an extra scoop of ice cream when he’s lounging at home with his wife and watching Netflix. But we learned yesterday that the golden boy might be starting to become more like one of us.

That’s right, folks, KB has developed a thirst for caffeine. I don’t know if it’s elevated his laid-back manner at all, but he’s gonna need to suck down a lot of Starbucks to be as animated as his old man. If I can offer a word of advice, though, Kris, don’t drink out of pot with the green lid that Johnny Bench brewed up.

Cubs’ handling of Russell situation

After the botch job the Cubs pulled in the wake the Aroldis Chapman trade — poor rhetoric, disorganized press conferences, poor use of an unprepared translator (Henry Blanco) — my expectations weren’t too high for what we’d get as a response to the allegations against Addison Russell. To their credit, though, the Cubs were measured and united, neither coddling nor defensive of their decisions or their shortstop.

It seems simple when you’re on the outside looking in, but there’s a reason people get paid big money to run PR firms. Rather than spin the information one way or the other, the Cubs chose to address the potentially sticky situation with honesty and simplicity. There was no talk of whom they believed or what was right and wrong. They didn’t hand out scripts to players or shut the media out of the locker room.

And perhaps best of all, they kept Russell out of the ballpark altogether on Thursday. The statements that were released — both from Russell and the team — were brief and absent of extraneous detail. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer spoke with candor, as did Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, among others.

I think we’d all prefer that this wasn’t something we felt the need to discuss — and maybe some of you would prefer we didn’t discuss it — but I was impressed with how things went yesterday. Moving forward, now, that is going to be the real test.

More news and notes

  • Kyle Hendricks has been placed on the 10-day DL
    • Hoyer said Hendricks has felt mild pain over last two starts
    • This could explain control/velocity issues
    • The move is more precautionary than anything
  • Brett Anderson was moved to the 60-day DL
    • Move was necessitated by Seth Frankoff’s addition to 40-man roster
    • Purely procedural, as Anderson had already been out for a month and wouldn’t be back within 30 days
  • Yoenis Cespedes made another minor league rehab start a week after being shut down
Back to top button