Justin Verlander named Player of the Year by the MLBPA. Harbinger of an MVP?

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The MLBPA Player’s Choice Awards aren’t as big a deal as the BBWAA awards, but they’re not nothing.  The players certainly think they’re significant as anyone who is awarded something by their peers is likely to feel.  Justin Verlander certainly feels that way, as his comments after being awarded the MLBPA’s Player of the Year award last night make clear.

What interests me is whether this award is a harbinger of Verlander winning the MVP.

In the 13 years the Player of the Year Award has existed, the players voted for a guy who went on to win the MVP award six times, with all six of them coming in the last ten years.  The players, like the BBWAA, are likewise not crazy about voting for pitchers, having given the Player of the Year award to a pitcher only once: 1999 to Pedro Martinez. Martinez should have won the MVP that year too, but that’s another rant.

Another potential harbinger is the Sporting News Player of the Year award, which Verlander also won this year.  In the past ten years, the winner of that award has gone to be win the MVP award seven times.  And again, the award is not handed out willy-nilly to pitchers, so the fact that Verlander won it is somewhat significant.

Obviously anything can happen with this stuff and obviously we won’t know for sure who wins the MVP award for a couple of weeks. But I can’t shake the notion, based on how the season ended — Boston flaming out and Jose Bautista’s second half being somewhat less-electrifying than his first — and based on the sentiment from the non-BBWAA award givers, that Verlander is gonna take home the hardware everyone cares about.

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.