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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.

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

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The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.