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Shohei Ohtani’s questions would make White Sox stretch

Lack of Japanese players during the last decade makes it difficult to point to predecessors

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The White Sox don’t figure to be players in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, as their maximum bonus offer is less than one-tenth of what the Rangers can offer ($3.55 million). The Sox are limited to $300,000 over this signing period and the next because they blew out the budget signing Luis Robert.

That decision made plenty of sense then and still does now, even if it puts the Sox out of the running for one of 2018’s most compelling storylines. “A bird in the hand” comes to mind, and it’ll especially be the case if Ohtani ends up signing for short of top dollar with the Yankees or Mariners due to their distinct market advantages.

That said, the White Sox should put forth the $20 million posting fee since only the team signing Ohtani would actually have to pay it. Every other team should do the same. Ohtani’s side might be anticipating all teams being eligible, because Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times received the memo that Ohtani’s agent sent to all 30 teams.

The letter includes seven “non-financial points” Ohtani wants to see represented in presentations:

  1. “An evaluation of Shohei’s talent as a pitcher and/or a hitter;
  2. “Player development, medical, training and player performance philosophies and capabilities;
  3. “Major League, Minor League, and Spring Training facilities;
  4. “Resources for Shohei’s cultural assimilation;
  5. “A detailed plan for integrating Shohei into the organization;
  6. “Why the city and franchise are a desirable place to play;
  7. “Relevant marketplace characteristics.”

We won’t know how consequential these answers might be until Ohtani signs, but in a theoretical world where the White Sox could spend as much as anybody, they’d probably have to count on money making the difference, as they wouldn’t assemble together a terribly unique case.

They’d be able to stand their ground on the first two points if Don Cooper had a notion about maximizing Ohtani’s talent. The same can be said for No. 3 when considering the Sox’ collection of minor-league parks.

After that, any presentation would get flimsy. Nos. 6 and 7 would require Ohtani to get excited about Year 2 of a rebuild. As for the city, Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States, but it hasn’t been a hotbed for Japanese players on either side of town, and they’ve been largely nonexistent on the South Side. The White Sox brought over two players from Nippon Professional Baseball over two years -- Shingo Takatsu in 2004, Tadahito Iguchi in 2005 — and none since, although they did supposedly put their best foot forward for Masahiro Tanaka. Kosuke Fukudome is the only other Japanese player the Sox have employed, but only for the last 24 games of his MLB career.

Basically, the White Sox would have to lean heavily on Iguchi’s successful White Sox career and residual fond feelings, although maybe they could spin No. 4 by saying the Japanese assimilate so well in Chicago that a neighborhood isn’t necessary. They’d have to hope that this part of the pursuit is more about the willingness to make the case than the details themselves.

It’s kind of a shame that the White Sox haven’t been more active in pursuing Asian players, because Japanese and Korean baseball is a blast, and the cultural exchange makes for good reading. The White Sox have aligned themselves with other parts of the map, though, and they’ve had success going in the opposite direction.

For instance, the White Sox would have little problem shaping substantial answers for the fourth and fifth questions if Ohtani hailed from Cuba. The White Sox can make the great case for being a landing spot simply by pointing at Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada, and the Cuban Sox who came before them. Of course, the White Sox also offered Abreu more money than anybody, and they were no worse than the second-highest bid for Robert (the Cardinals could have topped them).

I’d expect money to play a similar role in Ohtani’s destination, although the variance between his highest and lowest bid if far smaller than the ones Robert fielded. It doesn’t hurt teams to have these arguments for tiebreaking purposes though, and it doesn’t hurt for the White Sox to evaluate themselves along these lines for when the next major international star makes his presence known.

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