SAN FRANCISCO — Late in the season, after watching his team lose yet another game to the Dodgers, Bruce Bochy pulled up some Shohei Ohtani clips on a laptop and spent a few minutes watching the two-way star. The highlights brought a smile to Bochy’s face even as the Dodgers celebrated a division title a few hundred feet away.
Two months later, the Giants — along with 29 other teams — will finally get their shot at the 23-year-old who throws 100 mph on the mound and hits mammoth homers in his spare time. Ohtani was officially posted on Friday when a new agreement was reached between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball. He can negotiate with MLB clubs until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 22.
It’s unclear what exactly Ohtani is looking for in a future home, and the Giants, per multiple sources, have gotten no indication that they are or are not in the running. But they have taken the chase seriously, with Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley scouting Ohtani in Japan in September and team officials spending much of their offseason preparing a recruiting pitch.
Bochy has watched a lot more film and pored over scouting reports since September. His first impression of Ohtani hasn’t changed at all. If anything, he is more convinced than before that Ohtani could be a frontline starter and play a corner outfield position multiple times a week.
“This guy is special,” Bochy said on Friday, shortly after Ohtani was posted. “I see him as somebody who could be a starter and it’s possible you’re also looking at 300 or 400 at-bats. It’s going to make it a little easier next year with our days off, looking at the new schedule, to where he could play even more because he’ll get that additional rest. That’ll make it easier, too.”
The new CBA calls for an expansion of off days, from 21 to 25, and interested teams are said to be mapping out prospective schedules for Ohtani. With four veteran starters already, along with Chris Stratton and Ty Blach as swingmen, the Giants would seem well-positioned to manage Ohtani’s initial workload as a pitcher. He would not be blocked in the outfield on a team desperate for power, and Bochy has shown with Madison Bumgarner that he has no concerns about giving pinch-hit at-bats to a pitcher who can hit. Bochy said he could see Ohtani playing the outfield on the days after starts and then spending the day or two before his next start preparing to pitch.
The workload would be unprecedented in modern baseball and nobody truly knows if Ohtani can actually make it work. It’s clear, though, that teams will have to let him try in order to be in the running. Ohtani is potentially giving up hundreds of millions by coming over at the age of 23, but he wants to test himself against the best in the world. On talent alone, he appears ready to give this a shot.
“He’s got a great swing,” Bochy said. “We all know he has a great arm and he’s got the equipment to be a No. 1 starter, but the overall athleticism is what’s so impressive with this guy. He’s got a great arm but he runs well and he’s a good outfielder with a nice swing. He’s got plus power and great plate discipline. You can tell it’s a swing he’s worked hard on. It’s a beautiful swing.”