Lindbergh: Shohei Ohtani and MLB’s Japanese pitcher fragility myth

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on December 5, 2017:

There’s a distinction between the skill that makes offseason centerpiece Shohei Ohtani most attractive to teams and the factors that have turned him into one of the most fascinating free agents in the history of professional sports. Ohtani’s offensive abilities, CBA-suppressed initial salary, and resulting “almost every team enters, one team leaves” soap opera have made him the majors’ most interesting man during an offseason that Ohtani himself has slowed to a crawl.

Dominant Nippon Professional Baseball closer Dennis Sarfate, an MLB export who succeeded Ohtani this season as MVP of Japan’s Pacific League (and who’s held Ohtani to a career 2-for-11 line), told me Monday that Ohtani possesses “off the charts” foot speed, “unreal” bat speed, and “some of the best power I have ever witnessed,” matching or surpassing the pop of sluggers such as Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ryan Braun, and Prince Fielder.

Despite those skills, Ohtani, who’s bound by the CBA’s severe restrictions on amateur spending, will make the minimum major league salary (or yearly totals close to it) until he hits arbitration or signs a team-friendly extension. No matter what the Marlins might say, Ohtani’s potential for massive surplus value makes his salary, plus a $20 million posting fee and smaller signing bonus, a preposterously small price to pay. Both his bat and his salary are as special as advertised.

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Originally published: December 5, 2017. Last Updated: December 5, 2017.