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Shohei Ohtani is a pitcher and a hitter, and he’s on the Red Sox’ radar

Shohei Otani is a righthanded pitcher/lefthanded hitter with a dream to play in the major leagues.File/koji sasahara/AP

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ORLANDO — Shohei Ohtani is about to change baseball.

The 23-year-old Japanese superstar will soon be able to come to play in Major League Baseball. As it currently stands, and there’s some tweaking to be done, MLB teams can bid a $20 million posting fee.

It’s expected that up to 20 teams will bid for the righthanded pitcher/lefthanded hitter. By all accounts, speaking to longtime members of the Japanese media, this is the biggest story in Japan since Daisuke Matsuzaka was posted and the Red Sox won the bid.

The Red Sox have a legitimate shot at Ohtani.


The Sox are seen as a Japanese-friendly organization who have accommodated many Japanese players through the years from Tomo Ohka to Hideo Nomo to Matsuzaka to Hideki Okajima to Koji Uehara. Boston has very good Japanese schools (Matsuzaka’s wife and children still live in Brookline). That stuff gets around the Japanese baseball community.

If the posting fee remains at $20 million, the money is going to the Nippon-Ham Fighters, Ohtani’s current team, though Ohtani will be able to choose the team he wants to play for. That team will have to use its international pool money in order to give Ohtani some sort of a signing bonus.

The Rangers currently have the most international money — $3.53 million, according to the Associated Press. But Ohtani has said that money is not the motivating factor in leaving Japan.

His dream has been to play in the United States. Because he’s under 25 years old, under the current international rules, Ohtani would have to sign a minor league deal and a team could pay him up to the major league minimum if he makes the major league roster. But teams can pay anything for a bonus.


According to the AP, the Yankees can pay $3.25 million and the Twins $3,245,000. The Red Sox only have $462,000 in bonus money remaining.

Those who have seen him in person and analyzed him on video are convinced that Ohtani could excel both as a pitcher and a hitter. You don’t hear this kind of consensus too often.

While Ohtani was hurt a lot in 2017, his routine in 2016 included being a designated hitter from Tuesday through to Thursday. He spent the next two days preparing for his start and he pitched on Sunday. He rested Monday, which is usually a day off in Japan.

The Red Sox have scouted Ohtani extensively. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski did not rule out a player being able to do both jobs. He certainly left the door wide open and the Red Sox are expected to be one of the bidding teams.

How would he fit the Red Sox?

He could be used as a sixth starter, someone who could save the front-line pitchers from wear and tear. He could be used as a DH on days when Hanley Ramirez plays first base. This may preclude the Red Sox from spending a ton of money on J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer — though they’d be taking the chance that Ohtani would be a big-time hitter right off the bat. Or that he could make the major league roster at all.

Is he the second coming of Babe Ruth? Ruth was an excellent pitcher for the Red Sox before he became a prolific slugger for the Yankees.


“It’s a reality that I think I can have confidence in what I accomplished over the last five years,” said Ohtani at his news conference in Japan over the weekend. “I have a lot of confidence in what I learned.”

The general managers meeting in Orlando were not able to speak specifically about Ohtani because he hasn’t been posted and, thus, they would be tampering.

“The fact he’s already [pitched and hit] at a high level [in Japan] leads me to believe he has a chance to be able to do it in the majors,” said one American League GM. “Now at some point I would think the player would decide that he could only do one or the other. I would think that it would get too much for him physically and mentally to do it for a substantial length of time.”

Angels general manager Billy Eppler, speaking in general about a pitcher/player situation, said, “You have to be mindful of the workload management aspect of that. The travel and so forth. I would never say never. You really have to understand physiologically what it’s doing to a player and how his body is handling it.”

“There’s no question a team could structure something creative to do that,” said Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, again speaking in generalities and not specifically about Ohtani. “The answer is yes it can be done. You have to consider practice time, wear and tear, and things like that.


“If that player was in today’s game, you find a way to make it happen. Let’s face it, there are complexities, but I think it’s an amazing thing to be able to do both and have that kind of talent.”

What this does is put baseball in a very positive, exciting spotlight. To have an athlete capable of doing two things so well would bring much needed attention to the sport.

And for the Red Sox, he would create a little excitement on a team that could use some of that.

It’ll be quite a coup for the team that pulls it off.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.