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How Much of a Contender are the Phillies for Shohei Ohtani?

Giancarlo Stanton trade talks aside, the signing of Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani is the largest storyline in the MLB this offseason. The “Japanese Babe Ruth” is a hot commodity for a number of teams. Being just 23 years old with front end of the rotation ability and potential to have regular playing time in the field, Ohtani becomes a true dual threat for any team he signs with.

Ohtani has great stuff to say the least. His Fastball can reach triple digits and primarily is clocked in the upper 90’s. He also throws a nasty slider and a split grip changeup that has a vast difference in velocity from his fastball.

As a hitter, Ohtani put up stellar averages hitting above .300 for the last two seasons in Japan. His 6’ 5” frame is slender but provides some pop which should translate to that of an average power hitter in the MLB.

With Ohtani coming to the Major Leagues this off-season the courting has already begun for the Japanese phenom. Under the new CBA, teams will need to offer Ohtani a signing bonus from their international free agent signing pool. Currently, the Phillies sit 9th among all teams in available space with $900k to spend on international free agents.

The Phillies are rumored to be interested in Ohtani or at least throwing a pitch to him and his representatives. However, Philadelphia has not been known as a premier destination for Japanese free agents (like Seattle, New York, or Los Angeles), but have members of the organization who are familiar with the Japanese league. New manager Gabe Kapler played a season in the Japanese league as well as former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel who works as a special team adviser.

Also, the Phillies do not seem designed to give him the best opportunity to be a two-way player like an American League team or another team with outfielder vacancies. The Phillies could clearly use his arm off the mound but finding a home for regular at-bats could be problematic.

Overall, the Phillies could be in the market for Ohtani and the front office should at least put their best foot forward to woe the young Japanese star to Philadelphia. As of now, they are at best a long shot to sign him given limited signing bonus money, lack of Japanese player history, and no clear plan to give him an opportunity to play in the field.

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