Tag Archives: Seattle Mariners

The Pursuit For Japanese Superstar Shohei Ohtani

Netherlands v Japan - International Friendly

Courtesy: Getty Images

The pursuit for the Babe Ruth of Japan continues and the Rangers are right in the mix.

The process of elimination for the services of Shohei Ohtani is underway with seven teams still in the running. Out of those seven, the Rangers and Chicago Cubs are the only two that are not on the West Coast. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners also have Ohtani.

The Japanese superstar has until Dec. 22 to make the call on where he’ll sign his first pro contract in the United States. All seven teams have met with Ohtani and made their sales pitch on why he should wear their uniform.  Now, the wait begins.

So why is he the cool kid that everybody wants to hang out with?

Ohtani is the rare player who was both a pitcher and a hitter in Japan and grades out high in both.  Now the 23-year old wants to do the same thing on the world’s biggest baseball stage to show he’s the real deal.

In 403 career games for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Ohtani had 48 home runs and 166 RBI’s at the plate. On the mound, he went 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA and 624 strikeouts. The fastball was clocked as high as 102 mph and touches triple digits regularly. Combine that with his splitter and slider and the repertoire is just nasty.

Bottom line- He’s an All-Star in both phases.

So what chance do the Rangers have in landing Ohtani? Well, they made it to the final round of seven over teams such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and world champion Houston Astros. Plus, the rumor that Ohtani likely prefers the small market teams over the big market ones plays helps and could also eliminate the Los Angeles teams in the long run. Add in the fact that the Rangers were one of the teams courting Ohtani out of high school helps present a strong case.

However, Rangers Nation may not feel the same way. According to a recent poll on NBCDFW.com, 57 percent said Texas wouldn’t land Ohtani.

There was a similar feeling in 2012 with a Japanese pitcher named Yu Darvish. Granted, the international rules and posting system was different compared to now but very few gave the Rangers a chance to win the bidding war over teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.

If the magic does happen, you could be looking at a Rangers team with a six-man starting rotation with Ohtani in the mix. Plenty of clubs fell out of the hunt early when they said they weren’t willing to budge on letting him both pitch and hit, eliminating the possibility of seeing something special.

Ohtani’s two-way ability may also lead to something that baseball has never seen. As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News pointed out, that ability would eliminate the need for an extra bat on the bench and make more room available in the bullpen. Keep in mind, the Rangers ran through some pitchers last season in a bullpen that was among the worst in the majors.

And keep in mind, Darvish is a free agent and there’s always the possibility that a deal between him and the Rangers could lead to a reunion. It may sound like crazy talk but there’s a chance.

Could it be déjà vu all over again? Waiting is the hardest part.

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Report: Rangers Sign Starting Pitcher Doug Fister

Divisional Round - Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox - Game Three

Courtesy: Getty Images

There’s no doubt the Texas Rangers need starting pitching. On paper, there’s Cole Hamels, Martin Perez and several question marks afterwards.

However, the first step in possibly answering at least one of those question marks appears to be happening over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston is reporting that the Rangers have agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal with righty Doug Fister, pending a physical.  The deal would also include a team option for 2019. Rangers Nation may remember Fister from his days in the A.L. West with the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros. Now it seems this time around Fister will be wearing the Rangers uniform when stepping onto the mound in Arlington.

The numbers from last season don’t look that impressive on the surface. Fister was 5-9 with a 4.88 ERA as both a starter and a reliever. He was last seen giving up three runs in 1.1 innings against the Astros in Game 3 of the ALDS. However, look beyond the surface and the signing of Fister may not be such a bad idea, despite the obvious desperation to fill out the starting rotation before spring training rolls around in February.

The velocity and strikeouts improved during Fister’s year in Beantown.  The 33-year old had 83 strikeouts in 90.1 innings pitched, averaging 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. That average was 5.7 in 2016 with the Astros, plus 5.5 and 5.4 in his two seasons before that with the Washington Nationals.

Fister flourished under the Red Sox coaching staff after being claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels. Now the question is whether that improvement can be maintained once he arrives in Arlington.

Even with the addition of Fister, there is still work to be done with the Rangers starting rotation.  There are even names on the free agent market with Texas Connects Us ties such as Yu Darvish, Andrew Cashner and John Lackey. Other interesting options include Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Tyler Chatwood and C.C. Sabathia.

And then there’s the pursuit of outfielder/pitcher Shohei Ohtani. The Rangers are among the favorites to land the “Japanese Babe Ruth” once he’s eligible to be posted as a free agent by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, which can be as soon as Friday.

One thing is for sure, the signing of Fister could be the beginning of an interesting offseason for the Rangers.