Karpin: Better Be Good

Shohei Ohtani better be as good as advertised because, for a player who has proved nothing in North America, his camp is making an awful lot of demands.

The two-way player was posted today. Under the new posting system that was agreed upon last week, Major League teams will have until December 22nd to sign the 23-year old who is already in Los Angeles. Ohtani is expected to begin negotiating with major league teams next week.

You already know about the questionnaires that were requested from all 30 major league clubs with instructions to be filled out in English and Japanese. In those responses, Ohtani’s camp is asking the clubs to “identify his strengths and weaknesses as both a pitcher and a hitter, as well as descriptions of many factors including teams’ player development and medical training systems, their facilities at the Major and Minor League levels and why their organization would be one that would make Ohtani feel comfortable.”

You get the feeling that Ohtani is looking to land with a team that will allow him to try the dual roles of being a pitcher and a hitter. A number of teams, including the Mariners and Cubs, have made it known that they would allow Ohtani to try to do both and that could be the deciding factor as to where he’ll play. Money is not the issue and won’t provide any advantage as teams can only offer Ohtani the amount of money they have amassed for international spending. The consensus was Ohtani would sign with the Yankees who have the second most to spend behind the Texas Rangers. General Manager Brian Cashman has given no indication that the Yankees would allow Ohtani to be a two-way player. They would likely want him to stick to pitching.

Yesterday, the Angels acquired right hand reliever Jim Johnson and international pool money from the Braves for minor league lefty Justin Kelly. The Halos will make a serious push for the 23-year old Japanese star and may also offer him a chance to be a two-way player.

The hype for Ohtani has helped create an assumption from those who cover baseball, that he will be a “great player,” but, like Colonel Frank Slade in “Scent of a Woman,’ said ‘I’ve been around, ‘ya know,’ and I’ve seen this “plate spinning act” before.

It’s apparent that this young kid will be under enormous pressure, more so than any Japanese player before him who has previously made the transition into the American major leagues.

The Yankees announced that they are done with interviewing candidates and have narrowed their list to six finalists for the manager’s seat. Considering Hal Steinbrenner’s comments intimating that he wouldn’t be comfortable with someone who lacked experience in the dugout, you’d have to think that would limit the field to Rob Thomson, Hensley Meulens and Eric Wedge. Bill Madden of the Daily News is reporting Meulens and (in a bit of a surprise) Aaron Boone are the leading candidates. I’m getting a feeling that the bench coach will turn out to be a more important hire. It appears Thomson is headed to the Phillies. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal is citing a source saying Thomson is the Phils’ leading candidate to become their new bench coach.

A report stating the Giants were in Los Angeles meeting with Giancarlo Stanton’s reps has fueled speculation that a deal is in place for the NL MVP. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that, as of early Friday afternoon, the Giants have not been told if Stanton will waive the clause and join them. The Mets wouldn’t mind seeing Stanton leave the division if that’s the case.

Newsday Mets beat reporter Marc Carig cited a source reporting the Mets and Jay Bruce may be interested in a reunion. The Mets won’t meet Bruce’s original asking price of 5 years, $90 million but if there’s interest, then the free agent outfielder may be willing to negotiate. Meanwhile, Nightengale is reporting the Rockies and Mariners are also interested in the 30-year old.

Reportedly, the Mets want an outfielder who also offers them an option at first base. Bruce has not played a whole lot at first base (15 major league games) and we don’t really know if he can adapt to the position on a semi-regular basis. To be frank, during his 11-game stint at first base with the Mets last season, he wasn’t bad but he wasn’t what you would call impressive and didn’t demonstrate the footwork needed to be a good defensive player at that corner spot.

Andrew McCutchen’s name has surfaced again in trade talk this off season.

The 31-year old comes off a season where he started slow but began to show the form that won him the National League MVP award in 2013. Last season, McCutchen was hitting .206 with 8 HRS and 24 RBI’s through the first two months but he turned it on in June with a slash line of .411/.505/.689. His OPS was 1.193. He followed that up with 1.101 OPS in July. McCutchen slowed some in August but finished with a strong September and posted more than respectable numbers for the season. McCutchen compiled a slash line of .279/.363/.486, stats that measure up to his career numbers. He also hit his most home runs (28) since 2012, scored his most runs (94) since 2013 and contributed 11 steals.

As I wrote here last off season, McCutchen still has something left in the tank. He will probably need to move to a corner outfield spot but whoever acquires “Cutch” will be getting a quality player.

BTW: Congratulations and good wishes to McCutchen and his wife on the birth of their first child, a son named Steel Stefan McCutchen

Hot Stove Menu is a weekly column that runs on Fridays throughout baseball’s off season

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