Giants

Japanese star Shohei Otani: 'I hope to do my best in America from next year on'

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AP

Japanese star Shohei Otani: 'I hope to do my best in America from next year on'

OSAKA, Japan — Highly touted Japanese pitcher-outfielder Shohei Otani announced on Saturday he wants to move to Major League Baseball next season.

“The other day I met with team officials and stated my intentions,” Otani said at a press conference. “My request was met with warm words of support so I hope to do my best in America from next year on.”

Otani’s Japanese club, the Nippon Ham Fighters, said on Friday they will allow Otani to use the posting system this offseason, clearing the way for him to sign with a major league team next season.

Otani, 23, is the reigning Pacific League MVP and was 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA this year. Despite thigh and ankle injuries, he batted .332 in 65 games with 16 doubles, eight homers and 31 RBIs. He had ankle surgery last month.

He has a 42-15 record with a 2.52 ERA and 624 strikeouts in 543 innings over five seasons, and a .286 batting average with 48 homers and 166 RBIs.

Because Otani has less than nine years of service time, Nippon Ham retains his rights and he must go through the posting system to leave.

If MLB, the MLB Players Association and Nippon Professional Baseball agree to a deal that would extend the expired posting agreement through this offseason, the team that Otani signs with would pay the Fighters $20 million. Under MLB’s labor contract, his signing bonus is restricted and remaining pool money is limited to a high of $3,535,000.

Under baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement, the 23-year-old Otani can only agree to a minor league contract that is subject to signing bonus pools. If added to a big league roster, he would have a salary for about the minimum $545,000 next season and not be eligible for salary arbitration until 2020 at the earliest.

If he was to wait until he is 25 to enter MLB, there would be no restrictions and he likely would get a better deal. But Otani said he wanted to go now rather than wait.

“I am not yet a complete player yet, and I want to go to an environment where I can continue to get better,” said Otani. “I felt the same way when I graduated from high school. And it is my strongest reason for wanting to go now.”

Otani considered going straight to MLB out of high school but was convinced to sign with the Fighters as they assured him he could play the outfield as well as pitch.

His injury problems this season stemmed from last year’s Japan Series when he injured himself running the bases.

Otani, who had ankle surgery last month and is currently undergoing rehabilitation, just completed his fifth season with the Sapporo-based Fighters.

He said during Saturday’s press conference that he hopes to be able to continue both batting and pitching.

“Just before I turned professional, I didn’t imagine I would be able to do both,” Otani said. “But since then, the fans have encouraged it, the coaches helped me, and manager (Hideki) Kuriyama made it possible. That has left me with a strong desire, to keep doing it, not only for me, but for them.”

“I don’t know if it will be possible, but I want to hear what teams over there say and what kind of situations might be available. Until that process has started, I can’t say how it might work out.”

McCutchen Mailbag: What does trade mean for Giants' young outfielders?

McCutchen Mailbag: What does trade mean for Giants' young outfielders?

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants will introduce Evan Longoria on Friday at AT&T Park (we’ll be airing it and doing Facebook Live, so get ready) and at some point they figure to get Andrew McCutchen up on a podium with a brand new jersey. 

At that point, McCutchen can talk a bit more about his new team and his walk year. For now, let’s run through some questions about the trade and what might come next … 

How are you liking this move, Alex? I love it. — @DionTheDude

I was an advocate of taking a step back in 2018 and rebuilding a bit for the future, but the Giants were never going to do that. So, if you’re going to go for it, I think McCutchen is the perfect fit and a really savvy move. I also don’t think it cost the Giants very much. For my full thoughts, check out the Emergency Andrew McCutchen Podcast I did with Ahmed Fareed. 

Slater showed some promise with the glove last season. Do you see him as an option in center field? 566 career CF innings in the minors. — @BrooksKnudsen 

I do, and at the winter meetings, team officials talked about him playing all three outfield spots. At the time it seemed the emphasis would be right field, but with McCutchen now out there, I would guess Slater sees most of his time in left with starts in center, as well. A lot of people asked about Slater, Jarrett Parker, Mac Williamson etc. Simply put, the Giants are now in a position that normal teams hope to be in. They don’t have to rush some of these guys into a ton of starts in the outfield. The ones who have options can ride the Sacramento-San Francisco shuttle and provide more talent than in the past when a player gets hurt -- and on this old team, players will get hurt. Parker is out of options, but you’ll see some other familiar names fill out the outfield in Triple-A. If you missed it yesterday, here's the plan for Steven Duggar. 

Could the Giants go the Dee Gordon route and just sign Eduardo Nuñez to play center? - @raj_sidhu_123

I liked what the Mariners did with Dee Gordon, but Nuñez was pretty rough in left field last year. Having said that, I recently asked about him as a potential February addition, perhaps on a minor league deal if his market just turns out to be completely dry. I was told, “Nuñey is going to be just fine,” so I assume that he has some solid infield offers in hand. 

How about some pitching? - @pablodiablow 

My friend, we’re on the same page. The bullpen has been bad for two years and just lost a promising arm in Kyle Crick. Hopefully Derek Law fills that void, but he’s coming off a down year. I think they need another bullpen arm and another starter, because it would be rather shortsighted to build a lineup that you think can contend, and then turn the back end of the rotation over to a bunch of rookies. I expect a veteran or two to be in camp to compete for an Opening Day job. 

Does this mean Billy Hamilton is still possible? - @Gaberino4 

In conversations with sources, I haven’t heard Hamilton’s name in weeks. It was McCutchen, McCutchen, McCutchen at some point. I think that ship has likely sailed, as the Reds set a high asking price and didn’t waiver. Per Zach Buchanan, one of their beat writers, Hamilton is expected to start the season in Cincinnati. 

Was hanging onto Belt a priority? Seems like that would’ve been an ideal contract to get rid of given their cap issues. — @JoshSessler 

Yes, I’m told Belt was made just about untouchable at the start of the offseason, and frankly not many teams have asked about him given his potentially scary concussion issues. But to a larger point, holding Belt should’ve been a priority. He’s a good baseball player. End of story. Sorry, Belt Bashers. Even with McCutchen and Longoria, if I had to bet on who will lead the 2018 Giants in OPS, I would choose Belt. He should benefit quite a bit from hitting lower in the order. 

Do you have an estimate of how much money they still have for a center fielder? - @PeteDeBoerWar 

According to Cot’s, the best tracker out there, the Giants have about $4.4 million until they reach the tax. They were helped by the Pirates picking up $2.5 million of McCutchen’s $14.75 million deal. I think the actual number is $3-4 million under the tax, so that’s the budget for a defense-first center fielder, if that’s the way they go. 

You think they should go for Lorenzo Cain at a reasonable price now even if they lose the second-round pick? - @pejvahdat 

I do not. Cain is still going to be very expensive and he turns 32 in April, so forgive me for immediately thinking about the years I’ve spent covering an aging Angel Pagan and Denard Span. Cain is a much better defender than either of those two, but still, I think he comes with a lot of risk. Plus, the Giants just traded two of their top five prospects and they have a poor farm system. They need to nail those second- and fifth-round picks next year and add to what appeared to be a very good draft in 2017. At some point, a rebuild is coming. 

Where are all the people wanting Bobby Evans’ head now? — @kmav88

Oh, they’re still on Twitter. I still hear from them every day. Make no mistake about it, if this doesn’t work and the Giants fall well short of the postseason again, this will all come down on the front office. But for now, Evans has to be sleeping better. At the end of the day, he came away from the offseason with Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, and so far he’s kept ownership from paying the tax again and given them two new stars to sell. That’ll play. 

Just a number? Longoria says slow down with concerns of Giants' aging roster

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AP

Just a number? Longoria says slow down with concerns of Giants' aging roster

The Giants added two premier face of the franchise players this offseason in Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. Together the two have combined for eight All-Star Game appearances. 

What they don't bring to San Francisco though, is youth. Longoria (32) and McCutchen (31) are the latest to join an again Giants roster. Buster Posey turn 31 in March, Johnny Cueto turns 32 in February, Hunter Pence turns 35 in April, Brandon Crawford turns 31 in January, and Brandon Belt turns 30 in April.

Father Time though, is far from getting Longoria and the rest of the Giants' stars according to the third baseman. 

"I believe that all of us believe we're in our prime and we are more than capable of competing," Longoria said Wednesday on KNBR. "That's just ways of making waves in the news. Our job is to just go out and do our job. I think we'll be just fine." 

Longoria is entering his 11th season in the big leagues. That has certainly added wear and tear on him, but also added knowledge of his body. 

"I'm definitely a different player," Longoria says now at 32 compared to 22. "There's a lot of ways that I prepare now that I didn't have to do or I didn't know how to do when I was a younger player. For me personally, it's going to be quite an experience."

While Longoria and McCutchen may not have the freshest pair of legs in baseball, they are two of the most durable players in the game. In 2017, both players appeared in 156 out of 162 games.

"Being prepared for the season is one thing and I know how to do that and I know how to get myself ready for that," Longoria said. "It's just a matter of the day in and day out homework so to speak that I'll have to do. That's gonna change based on the league and based on the division."