(CBS) At a lesser level years ago, with none of the spotlight and scrutiny that’s accompanying one of this MLB offseason’s biggest storylines, Cubs manager Joe Maddon devised a plan to utilize a two-way player on the baseball diamond.
“When I was in the minor leagues with the Angels, I wanted to do it with a kid by the name of Deshawn Warren in 1992,” Maddon recalled in an interview with Matt Spiegel and Danny Parkins on 670 The Score on Friday. “I thought it was late ’80s, but I think it was actually early ’90s. A left-handed pitcher from Alabama, high school kid, and back then we used to run everybody in the 60-yard dash in spring training in instructional league. Deshawn was the fastest guy we had.
“I asked Mr. O’Brien, the GM, Danny O’Brien, if I could, if we could work out a schedule for Deshawn to pitch and then DH and play some outfield and take batting practice, etc. Because the tool was that good, the tool of running. I asked and I was denied.”
Of course, this topic is front and center because of Shohei Ohtani, the 23-year-old Japanese phenom who pitches and hits at a high level. On Friday, MLB announced that Ohtani would be posted later in the day, making him a free agent who’s desired by every team because of his talent and the cost benefit stemming from a situation in which he’s entering MLB at an age in which he’s subject to international signing rules. Ohtani can only be offered a maximum bonus of just more than $3.5 million, and most teams don’t have that much money to offer. He has 21 days to choose a team, then he’ll be under that team’s control for six seasons.
Ohtani’s camp has expressed to teams that he wants to be a two-way player who pitches every fifth day and plays elsewhere on other days. That would make the most sense in the American League where he could serve as a designated hitter, but National League teams are still zeroing in on him with the belief that he could play a corner outfield spot.
That includes the Cubs, who have a talented young core and are looking for controllable young starting pitching. Ohtani fits the bill as much as anyone, and Maddon is a manager who utilizes player versatility to the full tilt, pulling strings and using Cubs all over the diamond.
So it’s safe to say he’d love to have a two-way player.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the concept,” Maddon said. “I see nothing wrong with it. How you utilize it? I think a lot of that would be in progress. You’d have an idea of what you want to do, then you’d figure out more as you do it. But yeah, I definitely think it’s something that’s the wave of the future in a sense.”
Maddon certainly still understands that any team using a two-way player would have to be careful.
“It’s not easy to play a guy in the field after he’s just pitched,” Maddon said. “There’s a time for arm recovery too that you have to be cognizant of. So these are the kinds of the things you have to think about. It’s up to the individual, how well he responds. You’d probably have to monitor the number of innings thrown, that kind of stuff.”