Though Shohei Ohtani has not even yet been officially posted — that’s expected as soon as Friday — the supreme young talent is drawing plenty of attention from MLB organizations. Those clubs received a memorandum over the weekend asking them to provide information to Ohtani and his representatives on a variety of subjects, which is only the beginning of a highly unusual and utterly fascinating recruitment process.
Here’s the latest:
- Though Ohtani is limited to a signing bonus and a minor league contract in coming to the Major Leagues, he stands to earn substantially more through marketing endorsements, tweets USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Marketing agents have predicted to Nightengale that between endorsements back in Japan and in the United States, Ohtani could command north of $20MM annually. That’d make him MLB’s highest-paid player in terms of off-the-field revenue.
- Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic spoke to agent Scott Boras (who was in the running to represent Ohtani before Ohtani signed CAA and Nez Balelo) as well as MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem about Ohtani’s earning capacity. Unsurprisingly, Boras offered sharp criticism of a system that won’t allow Ohtani to top a $3.535MM signing bonus at this point. “He is precocious, greatness cast adrift, forced into the MLB lifeboat,” said the always colorful Boras. “And his admission is handcuffs that prevent him from getting at least what his older, lesser valued peers received—in Tanaka’s case, more than $150 million.” Halem, as one would expect, wholly disagreed with Boras’ notions, pointing out that it was Ohtani who passed on the chance to sign with MLB clubs as an amateur out of high school, which could have jump-started his earning potential. And, it was Ohtani who asked to be posted as an amateur just two years before he could have been posted as a professional. The free column has quite a few quotes from both Boras and Halem on the matter and is well worth a full look.
- As teams sit down to their assigned task, Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs reasons that the questionnaire’s request for information on “player development, medical, training and player performance philosophies and capabilities” may be the single most important factor. As Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes, the new CBA’s inclusion of additional off-days ought to help make it easier for Ohtani to pitch and hit at the game’s highest level. Just how teams propose to accomplish that, in combination with the player health and fitness management they already utilize, could well be be a significant element in Ohtani’s decision.
- MLB.com’s Jon Morosi discusses the eight teams that he believes have the best shot at landing Japanese star Shohei Ohtani — while acknowledging that we still really don’t know what factors will drive the decision. It’s a worthwhile primer on some of the background considerations that may play into things. For instance, Morosi notes that Los Angeles is home to the largest mainland Japanese-American community, representing a potential feather in the cap for the Dodgers, though certainly several other competitive organizations can point to their own, similarly robust international communities and other such considerations. It’s all still reading tea leaves at this point; fortunately, we have SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee to gather and interpret them for us (in this post).
- Of course, as Morosi notes, the Rangers have done as much or more grunt work developing a presence in Japan as any organization. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News recently broke down the team’s pursuit of Ohtani in a post that’s well worth a full read. Aiding the Rangers, he writes, is the fact that the organization has “laid groundwork in Japan for six years” and can point to its successes with Yu Darvish.
- The Reds have “serious interest” in Ohtani, as president of baseball operations Dick Williams says and C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Williams says the team has “some optimism” that it “can make a case for why we would present a good opportunity” to a player that is looking at far more than just money. Like the Rays, another rumored small-market suitor, it seems the Cincinnati organization feels there’s little to lose by putting its best foot forward.
- Some bigger spenders have roster and other limitations that may impact their pitches to Ohtani. As Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post recently wrote, that seems to be the case for the Nationals. Still, the Nats evidently plan to be among the teams that respond to Ohtani’s inquiries and at least make an attempt to land him. Club president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo discussed his intentions on MLB Network yesterday (more on that, including audio, here).
- Both of the Bay Area organizations would surely also love to add Ohtani, as John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, and each has dedicated some attention to watching him in the past. While their front offices weren’t looking to lobby much, Giants GM Bobby Evans called Ohtani “impressive” and Athletics GM David Forst says “a two-way player with his abilities would be an asset for any team.” To the extent that Ohtani prioritizes geographic proximity to his native Japan, the San Francisco-Oakland region would figure to hold appeal and might at least allow these organizations to get a foot in the door.