The Cubs sign Ryan: low risk, potentially high reward, still kind of depressing

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The Cubs made it official and signed B.J. Ryan to a minor league deal:

Left-handed reliever B.J. Ryan’s loss of velocity and command might
be the Cubs’ gain if he can regain his form in the minor leagues. The
Cubs signed the two-time All-Star to a minor-league contract Thursday
after the Toronto Blue Jays released him last week. Ryan had 1½ years
remaining on his five-year, $47 million contract. That’s a sign of how
far Ryan’s stock has fallen during his second season after having Tommy
John surgery on his left elbow. His velocity is said to be in the low
80s. But for a Cubs team that needs left-handed bullpen depth, the move
represents a no-risk, potentially high-upside signing if Ryan can
regain some level of major-league form.

Definitely a low-risk move for the Cubbies that, if it pays off, will
pay off handsomely. I mean, it’s not too long ago that Ryan was a
fantastic pitcher and stranger rebounds have happened. Even with the
Cubs very recently: remember how bad Jim Edmonds was with the Padres at
the beginning of last year (.178/.265/.233) and remember how good he
was after coming to Chicago following his release (.256/.369/.568)?
That’s certainly the analogy/wish smart Cubs fans I know are making today.

Another analogy: this is the Cubs trying once again to solve a problem
they didn’t need to have. Just as they signed Ryan Freel and then Jeff
Baker in an effort to fill the hole left by the absence of Mark DeRosa,
the Ryan move, among others, is aimed at filling a bullpen hole created
by the absence of Kerry Wood. Which isn’t to suggest that the Cubs
should have kept those guys — they would have been really expensive to
keep around — but it must be disheartening for Cubs fans to see the
team continuing to shovel dirt into the same holes, over and over
again.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.