MVP again? Joey Votto leads the NL in everything, basically

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Joey Votto hit .289 with a .939 OPS in April. Then he hit .355 with a 1.160 OPS in May. And now he’s hitting .491 with a 1.392 OPS in June.

Overall the former MVP leads the National League in batting average (.366), on-base percentage (.489), slugging percentage (.652), OPS (1.141), doubles (28), extra-base hits (40), walks (54), and times on base (131). He also leads the league in Runs Created (74) and Wins Above Replacement (4.3).

It might seem weird to suggest that someone who won the MVP as recently as 2010 is actually underrated, but I really think we’ve reached that point with Votto. Obviously anyone paying any kind of attention knows he’s a great player, but the fact that he’s been arguably the best hitter in all of baseball for the past four seasons seems to get lost in the shuffle somewhat.

Votto had a really good rookie season in 2008 and then took things to another level in 2009. From then until now he’s hit .324 with a .477 on-base percentage and .575 slugging percentage in 507 games. During that four-year span Votto is the only hitter in baseball with an OPS above 1.000. He leads all MLB hitters in on-base percentage, is .002 points away from tying Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols for the lead in slugging percentage, and trails only Joe Mauer and Cabrera in batting average. And he’s done all that while hitting slightly better on the road than at home in Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly ballpark.

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.