Olney: realign the Rays out of the AL East

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Buster uses the Mauer signing as a jumping off point for thoughts on the
A’s and Rays.  For the A’s: Bud needs to make San Jose happen.  No
argument there. My view is that the commish should offer the Giants some
concessions, deem the move to be OK, and make the Giants sue if they
don’t like it. The Giants may be rattling their sword, but they have a
large and disparate ownership group full of businessmen who didn’t get
rich by spending years in litigation.  If Peter Angelos — a man who did
get rich by spending years in litigation — didn’t sue, the Giants
won’t either.

Buster’s take on the Rays is a bit more problematic:

Selig has the power to affect change on behalf of the Rays, too, through
realignment. He needs to get Tampa Bay out of the AL East, to give the
Rays a consistent opportunity for success. This, in time, will give them
a chance to build their brand and make their case for a new ballpark.

There’s been a lot of realignment chatter lately, but someone has to
play in the AL East, don’t they?  And though I realize that the past
decade or so seems like forever, I remain convinced that the current
Yankees-Red Sox hegemony is a temporary phenomenon. Sure, they’ll always
have financial advantages, but the competitive advantages that flow
from them aren’t always going to be this pronounced.

The Jeter-Rivera-Poada-Pettitte isn’t something you can just buy, and it
isn’t something that appears by happenstance, even among the
smartest-drafting team. If the Yankees merely had the dollars or merely
had the core and didn’t have the other, we’d be in a very different
world than we’ve experienced since 1995. It’s a team that didn’t even
make the playoffs in 2008.  I’m not entirely certain the Red Sox will
make the playoffs this year, but I’ll save that for my big predictions
post next week. Anyway, I’ll grant that life sucks for the poorer sisters of the AL East
now, but I am convinced that it won’t suck forever and that making
realignment decisions based on temporary dominance would be a
shortsighted move.

But if we’re going to realign — and Bud says he thinks about it — let’s just go whole-hog with it and make a system that will never be subject to these little eddies of competitive frustration in the baseball-time continuum: two leagues, no divisions, top four teams in each league make the playoffs. If you don’t like that all the action will be in the race for the 3-4 slot as opposed at the top, build in pronounced home field advantage for the top finishers.

Or let’s just leave it as it is and see what happens over the next few years.

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.