Jeremy Hermida signs with the Reds

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This is not a notable signing in and of itself.  Jeremy Hermida will, at best, be a bat off the bench for Cincinnati.  It’s notable, however, because it shows just how powerful first impressions can be.

Hermida raked during a cup of coffee with the Marlins in 2005 and had another nice 120 games with them in 2007. Since then: blahsville. A little pop, a little plate discipline, but probably not enough of either to stick as a corner outfielder. But man, that early promise lingers. It was enough to make two really bright GMs — Theo Epstein and Billy Beane — take a chance on Hermida last season.  He flopped in both Boston and Oakland.

I’m not saying the Reds signing of Hermida is based on a fantasy or anything because even if he plays at the level he showed in 2008 and 2009 he’d be useful.  I bet, though, that even if he puts up another season like he did in 2010 that he’ll get more chances based on that 2005 and 2007. Why? Because there’s a sense out there that what a player does when he’s young represents his true talent level, and that if given enough time he’ll get back to it.  Likewise, there’s a sense that if a player first does well when he’s older, it was a fluke.

Sometimes, though, the fluke seasons come when a player is young.  Look at Jeff Francoeur. I think Hermida might be the same kind of player. Not in substance, but at least in terms of career pattern.

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.