STAMFORD, Conn. — How much does Brian Cashman want Shohei Ohtani to be a Yankee?
Cashman made a live televised plea to the two-way Japanese star on Friday while hanging from a building in Stamford.
“Ohtani-san, New York’s been waiting for this moment,” Cashman said to a Fox 5 camera. “This is a stage for all the great players in the world to play on. Obviously, we believe you’re one of those next great players. I hope you’re listening. We’re saying it loud, from the top of buildings, we’re interested.”
Earlier, Cashman stood on the rooftop of One Landmark Square, the building that he will rappel down on Sunday while dressed as an elf as part of the city’s annual holiday festivities. The general manager would love to play Santa Claus to Yankees fans by signing Ohtani before the Dec. 22 deadline.
Ohtani was posted on Friday and is available to all major-league clubs for a $20-million fee, which will go to his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters. Under the rules, the Yankees can offer the righthanded pitcher and lefthanded hitter a $3.5-million signing bonus, which is the second-most of any team. The Texas Rangers can offer the 23-year-old $3.53 million.
“He’s an exciting young talent and would fit perfectly with us,” Cashman said. “But unfortunately he would fit very well for everybody.”
Cashman said the Yankees are willing to let Ohtani pitch as a starter and hit on the days he is not starting. Ohtani is an outfielder, but the Yankees and all other American League clubs can offer the designated hitter spot for when he is not pitching, which should help their chances against National League clubs.
What the Yankees cannot use is their financial might because of the restrictions placed on Ohtani’s contract under the rules agreed to by Major League Baseball, Nippon Professional Baseball and the MLB Players Association. As a true free agent, Ohtani might command a contract of more than $200 million, but because of his age, that is not the case.
Last week, the Yankees and other interested clubs submitted a detailed response to a getting-to-know-you questionnaire for Ohtani prepared by his representatives at CAA.
“We spent a lot of time and it involved a lot of different departments,” Cashman said. “Obviously, he’s a player of unique abilities. Certainly hopeful that he sees all the characteristics the New York Yankees would have to offer. But again, a very dynamic, unique player that can play both sides of the ball and an exciting talent. Certainly this franchise has spent a long time looking at this player, scouting him all the way back to 2012. [I] flew over there in August to personally see him pitch. He’s someone of extreme value and very attractive talent and a unique talent because he possesses the ability to play both sides of the ball as a hitter and pitcher. We’re anxious to see how this process will play out.”
Cashman stressed the Yankees’ successful history with Japanese players such as Masahiro Tanaka and Hideki Matsui. Both could be part of the team’s pitch to Ohtani. Cashman said he didn’t know if and when in-person meetings with Ohtani will begin and that the only contact through Friday had been the questionnaire.
“We took great pains in an effort to educate him and his family and his representation about who the New York Yankees are and what we bring,” Cashman said. “Whether it’s within that clubhouse, within that locker room, within the facilities, with the dynamics of our franchise. We have great ownership here that’s been in place now as a family for 40 years with a winning legacy and a commitment to winning that’s second to none . . . That should be an attractive quality to anybody who’s looking to play at the highest level. It’s a big stage here and it’s meant to have the best talent play on it. Ohtani represents the next great talent that’s available in the world of baseball. This stage is made for players like this and that’s why we certainly are going to be aggressive in this process to the degree we can, because it’s not a bidding war.”