The Rundown: Otani ‘Not a Complete Player Yet,’ Stanton Talks ‘Heating Up’ with Red Sox

Thank you for joining us again here at Shohei Otani Watch dot com, formerly known as Cubs Insider. We appreciate your continued patronage during this transition period and hope you’ll stay with us when we resume actual Cubs commentary following the Japanese unicorn’s decision on which team to join. Unless that team ends up being the Cubs, in which case your favorite Editor-in-Chief is going to lose his freaking mind.

While the chances of Otani ending up in Chicago aren’t through the roof by any means, I really do believe it’s a serious possibility. By all accounts, he’s a baseball rat who cares little for all the trappings of fame and just wants to get out there and play baseball. As such, he’s going to choose a team that allows him to be a baseball player.

Yes, I know that sounds really dumb if you take the words at face value, since of course he’ll be a baseball player. But what I mean is that he’s not going to be signed as just a pitcher or an outfielder or a DH. He truly wants to play both ways and has displayed more than enough aptitude in every aspect of the game to merit an opportunity to do just that.

Another possible factor in Otani’s decision emerged during a Saturday press conference he held in Japan. He humbly addressed the assembled media, formally stating his desire to head to MLB and expressing the belief that he’s not “a complete player yet.”

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

Based on what he said later in the presser, it sounds as though he’s not even begun to think about where he’ll end up and that he’s actually indifferent when it comes to the team or city. For now, anyway.

“Just before I turned professional, I didn’t imagine I would be able to [pitch and play the field],” 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 [emphasis mine]. Until that process has started, I can’t say how it might work out.”

While we pretty much knew it already, this makes it even more clear that Otani will make a decision based largely upon which team can best offer him the ability to keep playing the same way he has in Japan. But there’s more to that than simply being allowed to do whatever he wants.

“I don’t think I’m good enough to be calling out anyone,” Otani said when asked about who he most wanted to face in MLB. “I think it’s natural to want to be the No. 1 player.”

This isn’t some cocky prima donna who wants a team to hand him the keys to the car and just get the hell out of his way. I suppose it could all be an act, but I really believe the humility and the love for the game are legit. As such, a major factor in Otani’s decision will be not just where he can play the most, but where he can grow the most as a player.

Make no mistake, those are very different concepts. This guy is hungry to learn and to get better, so he’s going to take into account the staffs and rosters of potential teams to find out where he can be challenged and how he can best hone his skills both on the mound and at the plate. I don’t want to even insinuate that the Cubs rearranged their staff to attract or accommodate Otani, but you can bet they’ll tout the merits of Chili Davis and Jim Hickey when they make their sales pitch.

I’d really love for Otani to determine that that team is the Cubs, but I’m really just stoked to see this whole thing play out. This is a player I will absolutely pay money to see, even if it’s not in Chicago.

Red Sox active in Stanton talks

Jon Morosi reported that the Marlins have engaged in preliminary talks with the Phillies, Cardinals, Giants and Red Sox about Giancarlo Stanton, but an early favorite is already emerging. It’s said that Stanton prefers one of the coasts, so that hampers the Cards. The Giants are very much in danger of exceeding the luxury tax threshold for the fourth straight season, so they seem like a longshot.

Now we’re left with two teams, one of which already has some major pieces in place and has a ballpark that would be pretty conducive to Stanton’s power stroke. Not that it really matters when you hit the ball as hard as he does, but Boston certainly seems like a good fit.

And according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, talks between Boston and Miami “may be heating up.” Stanton hasn’t publicly confirmed anything and he’s got a full no-trade clause, so you have to think Derek Jeter and crew will get a green light before getting too deep into any negotiations.

The other big kicker will be what kind of a return the Marlins are able to get. Their strong desire to slash payroll might mean taking less than you’d expect from a talent perspective just to dump as much of Stanton’s huge contract as possible. And with the Red Sox openly admitting that they’re willing to exceed the cap number, they may be able to limit the cost in prospects and/or MLB players going back the other way.

More chatter is sure to emerge from the GM Meetings taking place from Monday-Thursday in Orlando.

Big week at CI

I often joke about it or act in a self-deprecating manner when it comes to this site, but I’m really proud of what we’ve built here. You may not realize it, but no one who contributes to this site does it as a livelihood. Seriously, it’s a hobby for all of us. I usually stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning so I can have content ready to go the next morning, or I may type out a post on my phone while getting ready in the morning.

Anyway, the point is that it’s really, really cool to get such positive feedback from all of you out there. Okay, not all of you, but the percentage of positive responses gets much higher when we discount Facebook. And that’s why it’s pretty awesome that this past week was our biggest ever in terms of views. The number isn’t staggering and it’s probably one some of our fellow Cubs blogs would scoff at, but we’re at least moderately happy about it.

So now that we’ve established all this goodwill and whatnot, I’d like to ask a favor of you. I know, I know, this isn’t something I usually do, but it’s really simple and won’t take much effort. If you read something here on CI that you like or that you find informative, maybe share it via Twitter or Facebook or whatever other means you have. Every little bit really does help.

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