Still soured by the Kei Igawa disaster, the Yankees passed on Yu Darvish last winter. Will they jump back into the Japanese pitching market this offseason?
High school sensation Shohei Otani has declared that he will make the jump directly to the majors this winter, bypassing the Japanese leagues for the United States.
Otani, a 6-foot-4 righthander has a blazing fastball that clocks in at 99-100 mph, making him one of the more intriguing names to watch for this offseason
. Several big-league teams have reportedly scouted him, as Reuters cited Japanese media in saying the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Rangers are among eight teams “leading the chase” to sign Otani.
Unlike Darvish, Igawa and Daisuke Matsuzaka, signing Otani would not require paying a posting fee. That could make him one of the hottest commodities on this year’s free-agent market.
Otani was expected to go in the first round of Thursday’s amateur draft, but he announced that he would make the move to the majors instead.
“I agonized over the decision,”
Otani said, according to Reuters. “But I have decided to play in America. It’s been my dream to play in the majors since I started school.
“I want to play over there as early as possible. I will learn the hard way. I understand the risks. It’s not about the money. It’s about following my dream.”
The Yankees currently have CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, David Phelps and a rehabbing Michael Pineda under contract for next season. They are hoping to bring back veterans Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda in 2013. Given Otani’s age and lack of professional experience, it’s likely he would begin his pro career in the minors next season no matter which team signs him.