Shohei Ohtani is ready to make a major splash in the U.S. major leagues next year, but it won’t be in Boston or New York. The two AL East powerhouses residing in those cities acknowledged Sunday that they were told the Japanese phenom, who has until Dec. 22 to sign with an MLB team, eliminated each from the competition for his services.
Those services include an exciting blend of pitching and hitting, making Ohtani, who has been starring for the Nippon Ham Fighters, one of the unique prospects in recent memory. Adding to the unusual circumstances is that the 23-year-old can only be signed to a minor league deal paid out of a given MLB team’s international signing-bonus pool money, meaning that the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox couldn’t have brought bring their considerable financial advantages to the table.
That didn’t stop New York from trying to clear as much bonus money as it could, about $3.5 million, for a pursuit of Ohtani in which they had been considered among the favorites. However, the right-handed ace/left-handed slugger indicated that his preference was to play for a team on or near the West Coast and in a smaller market, which would also spell disappointment for other would-be bidders in the East.
In fact, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Sunday that other teams eliminated from contention include the Mets, Brewers, Pirates, Twins, as well as the A’s and Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman expressed disappointment, mixed with resignation, over his team’s inability to receive an invitation to make an in-person presentation to Ohtani.
“I started getting a feel that wasn’t good a few days ago,” Cashman said (via MLB.com). “I know that our presentation was excellent. The feedback from that was outstanding.
“I did get a sense that I can’t change that we’re a big market and I can’t change that we’re in the East. That was something that, presentation or not, might be difficult to overcome.”
Red Sox spokesman Kevin Gregg confirmed to the Associated Press that Boston was also eliminated from the bidding. Teams getting a meeting with Ohtani could include the Mariners, Giants, Dodgers and Padres, plus the Rangers and Cubs, according to reports Sunday.
The Angels and Rockies may also get a chance to land the “Babe Ruth of Japan,” a player whose repertoire in the Pacific League has featured fastballs timed at more than 100 mph and home runs measured at more than 500 feet. “When players are in the marketplace like that, you do everything you possibly can,” said Cashman, whose team has been scouting Ohtani since 2012.
“We put forward everything that we were about, but if it’s not a fit, it’s not a fit. You move on,” Cashman added. ” … I wish him the best of luck. He’s an exciting young talent. Some fan base is going to be excited about it.”
Ohtani could have waited two more years to reach the minimum age at which he would be eligible for a lucrative major league contract, part of restrictions on international signings included in MLB’s recent collective bargaining agreement. However, he decided to come to the U.S. next year, with representatives at CAA guiding the bidding process and the Fighters set for a $20 million posting fee.
“For someone to come over, to forego all that money to come over two years before being in a completely different situation. That’s already unexpected,” Cashman said.
The Rangers reportedly have the most bonus money available to give to Ohtani, $3.535 million, with the likes of the Mariners ($1,557,500) and Angels ($1,315,000) well ahead of several other teams. Given the relatively paltry amounts of money involved in landing such a coveted player, MLB has warned suitors of severe penalties if the winning bidder is discovered to have secretly agreed to a long-term contract with Ohtani.
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