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Jon Daniels traveled to Japan to evaluate Shohei Otani

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Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels is in Japan for a special scouting trip this week, according to reports from MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, among others. Daniels, along with assistant GM Josh Boyd and team scouts Joe Furukawa and Hajime Watabe, are taking an extended look at Japanese pitcher/slugger Shohei Otani.

Otani is the top talent in Nippon Professional Baseball and very well may be one of the top talents in Major League Baseball if he chooses to continue his career in the United States. He’s been out of the Nippon-Ham Fighters’ lineup for nearly five weeks due to a lingering thigh injury, but was able to hold a workout session prior to the Fighters’ game, where the Rangers were reportedly in attendance.

There’s still some ambiguity surrounding Otani’s move to Major League Baseball. Last month, a 60 Minutes interview with the young star revealed that Otani was considering a transition as early as 2018, even in light of current league rules, which cap the posting fees at $20 million and stipulate hard salary caps for any international player under 25 years old. The Rangers, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram adds, are likely trying to build some goodwill with the young pitcher ahead of the decision process, and may even have an advantage due to one special relationship with another Texas pitcher:

Otani and Darvish are friends and off-season training partners. Otani considers Darvish to be his mentor. Speculation among the Japanese writers covering MLB is that the Rangers could greatly enhance their chances at signing Otani if they are able to keep Darvish, who hits free agency after this season.

Even if the Rangers successfully retain Darvish, however, they won’t be the only team competing for Otani’s services over the next couple of years. Daniels may have a leg up for the time being, but the Babe Ruth of Japanese baseball is sure to attract considerable interest around the league as his MLB arrival date draws near.

Jeff Wilpon reminds Mets fans that insuring David Wright “is not cheap”

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It’s can’t be easy being a Mets fan. Your team plays in the biggest city in America and should, theoretically, have big payrolls and always be in contention. They aren’t, however, partially because of horrendous luck and ill-timed injuries, partially because of poor baseball decisions and partially because the team’s ownership got taken down by a Ponzi scheme that, one would think anyway, sophisticated businessmen would recognize as a Ponzi scheme. We’ll leave that go, though.

What Mets fans are left with are (a) occasional windows of contention, such as we saw in 2014-16; (b) times of frustrating austerity on the part of ownership when, one would hope anyway, some money would be spent; (c) an inordinate focus on tabloidy and scandalous nonsense which just always seems to surround the club; and (c) a lot of disappointment.

You can file this latest bit under any of or many of the above categories, but it is uniquely Mets.

Team president Jeff Wilpon spoke to the press this afternoon about team payroll. In talking about payroll, David Wright‘s salary was included despite the fact that he may never play again and despite the fact that insurance is picking up most of the tab. Wilpon’s comment:

I’m guessing every team has a line item, someplace, about the costs of insurance. They’re businesses after all, and all businesses have to deal with that. They do not talk about it as a barrier to spending more money on players to the press, however, as they likely know that fans want to be told a story of hope and baseball-driven decisions heading into a new season and do not want to hear about all of the reasons the club will not spend any money despite sitting in a huge market.

This doesn’t change a thing about what the Mets were going to do or not do, but it does have the added bonus of making Mets fans roll their eyes and ask themselves what they did to deserve these owners. And that, more than almost anything, is the essence of Mets fandom these days.