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Cubs Were In Attendance to Scout Shohei Otani’s Return to the Mound

Chicago Cubs Rumors, MLB News and Rumors

Japanese ace/slugger/superstar Shohei Otani took the mound last night for the first time since July, which was itself the only start he’d made all season. He was out to begin the season with an ankle injury, and then he suffered a thigh injury very early in that July start. Otani has at least been able to put up 164 plate appearances, in which he’s done his typical crushing (.342/.402/.548).


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But the pitching side of things is where teams have even more interest – the 23-year-old can pump 100 mph with great secondary pitches – and there hasn’t really been any of that this year.

In other words, for the first time this season, MLB teams had an opportunity to scout Otani as a pitcher. Being that he’s made rumblings about coming over to MLB after this season, it was a bigger outing than most scouting events.

And the Cubs were there!

… along with half of MLB, as Ken Rosenthal heard from a scout in attendance:

That the Cubs would be among the teams getting an eyes-on look in Otani’s return to the mound is not a surprise, even though they are in the IFA penalty box. Because of their oversigning in the 2015-16 period, the Cubs cannot sign any international free agents (the ones who are subject to restrictions, that is) for more than $300,000. Otani, who is subject to restrictions for two more years, is expected to command the maximum that a team can spend on him ($5 to $10 million, depending on the market size and how much IFA pool space they’ve acquired).


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The thing is, if Otani were to wait those two years until he was unrestricted, he could command a contract upwards of $200 million. I still can’t wrap my head around a decision to come before then, but perhaps Otani is truly the rare bird who does not care about the money.

The real question for now is whether Otani will decide to wait an additional year after missing so much time this season, in what was to be something of a swan song with his current team, the Nippon Ham Fighters. There is at least one report out there that he might want to stay one more year out of a sense of duty to to the Fighters.

If Otani does wait one more year, then the Cubs will not be in the penalty box come next offseason, and they could have a chance at Otani. Of course, if he waits that year, then he’d have to wait just one more year to be totally unrestricted.


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Of course, I still can’t help but wonder if there will be some last-minute exception or loophole or something that pops up for Otani, specifically, that allows the market as a whole to bid on him. I don’t want to get peoples’ hopes up, because there hasn’t been any indication of that in months … but, well, I just wonder. He’s truly that special.


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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.