The latest on game-changing Japanese ace/slugger Shohei Ohtani, whom the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters posted on Friday and who’s at the beginning of a three-week window to work out an agreement with a major league team:
- The Ohtani sweepstakes is seemingly on the verge of picking up in earnest, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the 23-year-old CAA Sports client will meet with various teams in Los Angeles next week (Twitter link). The Mariners are among those clubs, suggests Passan, who relays that team brass has asked multiple members of its roster to clear their schedules for a potential meeting with Ohtani. That comes on the heels of general manager Jerry Dipoto’s revelation last week that the Mariners are preparing an aggressive push press for Ohtani. “We’re not joking around. We’re bringing the big guns,” declared Dipoto (Twitter link via Greg Johns of MLB.com).
- Ohtani’s camp will notify certain teams this weekend if they’ll remain in the mix to sign him, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Padres are hopeful they’ll advance to the next round. “As a group, we’re prepared, and I think he’s a player that obviously we’ve scouted and have history with,” GM A.J. Preller told Lin. “You try to see what the fits are and why he’s a good fit for us and why we’re a good fit for him. We’re kind of down the path of doing that work.”
- The Red Sox will also chase Ohtani, per president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who told Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald via text: “Would acknowledge our interest. Beyond that, all would be confidential.” Ohtani joining Chris Sale and David Price would make for a rather enticing top of the rotation, needless to say, and he could also factor in as a designated hitter for a Boston club that received uninspiring production there last season in the first year of the post-David Ortiz era.
- Count the World Series-winning Astros as yet another team that will court Ohtani. Owner Jim Crane told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that the Astros will “put a full-court press on” to sign Ohtani, adding that they’ll “probably send the A-team out there.” He also noted that the Astros “need a left-handed DH, so there you have it.” In addition to having the ability to demonstrate his offensive prowess in Houston, Ohtani would add another potential front-end starter to a rotation that already includes past Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel.
- While the Rays are obvious long shots to land Ohtani, they have an advantage over other teams with the presence of two-way prospect Brendan McKay, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times observes. McKay, the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft, could be both a pitcher and a hitter in the majors. “We’re hopeful (McKay) can do it,” Rays GM Erik Neander said. “We want to give him the opportunity to do it because he’s shown he deserves that opportunity and we don’t want to take that away from him prematurely.” Citing McKay’s presence, the Rays will emphasize to Ohtani that they’re open-minded about developing and employing a two-way player, per Topkin, who also expects them to pitch Tampa Bay’s “relaxed” lifestyle during the recruiting process.
- The Marlins, MLB’s other Florida-based organization, are unlikely to make an effort for Ohtani, Tim Healey of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. The cost-cutting Marlins are wary of the financial commitment it would take to reel in Ohtani, who won’t require much from a salary standpoint but will cost a $20MM posting fee. While that looks like a relatively minor amount for a possible franchise face like Ohtani, the Marlins simply aren’t in position to fork it over in their current financial state, Healey explains.
- While the Indians only have $10K in international bonus pool space, they’re expected to partake in the Ohtani derby, per Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com. He’d slot into an already loaded rotation, one which features two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco; additionally, Ohtani could DH for a team at risk of losing Carlos Santana in free agency.
- All things considered, the Yankees may be the favorites for Ohtani. There’s a general “fear” coming from other franchises regarding the Bronx Bombers, tweets Passan, given the talent on hand, the market they’re in and their strong relationship with CAA Sports. They also have the second-biggest international bonus pool.