BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox seem to be dead-set on making big moves in free agency this winter, and one of their targets could come from overseas.
Japanese free agent Shohei Ohtani is making the jump to the major leagues in 2018, with the Red Sox reportedly having him on their radar. According to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo on Tuesday, the Sox have a “legitimate shot” at landing Ohtani, a move that would first require a reported posting fee of $20 million.
The 23-year-old Ohtani (whose name has also been spelled “Otani”) is a unique prospect, and not just because he’s coming over from Japan. Numerous scouts have said that the 6-foot-5 prospect has a chance to be elite as either a pitcher or a hitter – perhaps both at the same time. On the mound he’s drawn comparisons to Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander with a fastball that has been clocked at 96-100 MPH, and he could also have plus power on offense.
Here he is firing a 99-mph fastball in high school:
And here he is going deep to the opposite field:
It sounds likely that if Ohtani had to pick one, he would be a pitcher. But he could hit regularly if he chose to sign with a National League team and he has expressed desire to both pitch and hit at the major league level.
That presumably hurts the Red Sox’ chances, but as Cafardo noted, the Red Sox have been a “Japanese-friendly” organization in the past. Boston’s local Japanese schools have been attractive to players who have families or plan to start one.
Ohtani doesn’t necessarily fit the Red Sox’ needs right now, unless his power is legit and he would be interested in committing to an everyday spot in the lineup over pitching every five days. But there’s no doubt that he’s one of the most intriguing prospects with one of the most unique skill sets to come along in some time, and the team’s history suggests that they will look into him as much as any other free agent.