Shohei Otani: “I am not a complete player yet”

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Nippon-Ham Fighters’ pitcher-outfielder Shohei Otani is ready to make the jump to Major League Baseball, the two-way star announced during a press conference Saturday. “The other day I met with team officials and stated my intentions,” he said. “My request was met with warm words of support so I hope to do my best in America from next year on.”

The 23-year-old signed on with CAA Sports earlier this week and will be represented by lead agent Nez Balelo as he entertains offers from interested MLB teams. That’s assuming that Major League Baseball can hammer out the terms of a new posting system with the Players Association and Nippon Professional Baseball this offseason; specifically, that NPB can get the Players Association to agree to a one-time extension of the old posting system, which would grant the Nippon-Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee for their star player. MLB is reportedly already on board with such a plan.

Assuming everything works out this winter, there’s another question dogging Otani: Will he continue to develop as a hybrid pitcher-outfielder in MLB, or will he hone in on a singular career track with his new team?

Just before I turned professional, I didn’t imagine I would be able to do both,” Otani said. “But since then, the fans have encouraged it, the coaches helped me, and manager (Hideki) Kuriyama made it possible. That has left me with a strong desire, to keep doing it, not only for me, but for them. I don’t know if it will be possible, but I want to hear what teams over there say and what kind of situations might be available. Until that process has started, I can’t say how it might work out.

No matter where he ends up playing on the field, Otani stressed his desire to improve, telling reporters he doesn’t consider himself “a complete player yet” and that his desire to get better has driven his impending move to MLB.

Despite playing through a nagging ankle injury, which culminated in surgery last month, he found marginal success in his fifth year of pro ball. He batted .332/.403/.540 with eight home runs and a .942 OPS through 231 plate appearances and maintained a 3-2 record in five starts, posting a 3.20 ERA, 6.8 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Free-agent ace Jacob deGrom and the Texas Rangers agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner leaves the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened by injuries.

After making his first start last season in early August, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then opted out of his contract to become a free agent.

Texas announced the signing Friday night after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

“We are thrilled that Jacob deGrom has decided to become a Texas Ranger,” executive vice president and general manager Chris Young said in a statement. “Over a number of seasons, Jacob has been a standout major league pitcher, and he gives us a dominant performer at the top of our rotation. One of our primary goals this offseason is to strengthen our starting pitching, and we are adding one of the best.”

Texas went 68-94 last season and then hired Bruce Bochy as its new manager. The Rangers’ six straight losing seasons are their worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

The Rangers were big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).