Shohei Ohtani has narrowed down the field of teams that could get his services, and his list is reportedly stacked with West Coast teams.
The Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants have earned a meeting with the 23-year-old Ohtani, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. In addition to the Mariners and Giants, Mike Bernadino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Los Angeles Angels are other possible destinations.
Ohtani would prefer to play for a club in a smaller market, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, but the Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins are both reportedly out of the running.
The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers were considered the favorites by many to sign Ohtani but his desire to play in a smaller market has already taken the Bronx Bombers out of the running and the Dodgers might await a similar fate.
The Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets are also reportedly out of the Ohtani sweepstakes. The Toronto Blue Jays have also been eliminated, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have also been told no by Ohtani’s representatives, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and MLB Network. Teams that have not yet learned their fate include the Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, Padres and Angels. Rosenthal said the Oakland Athletics have also been knocked out.
That is a lot to digest but it appears that Ohtani will make a decision sometime in the next week.
With the framework for a trade to bring Giancarlo Stanton to the Giants or the St. Louis Cardinals finalized, there is a chance the offseason could finally get set free.
Here are five takeaways from today’s developments.
The San Francisco Giants may have finished tied with the Detroit Tigers for the worst record in the majors last season (64-98), but their winning tradition and respect around the league could land them arguably the two most coveted free agents.
Not only are the Giants apparent front runners to land Ohtani, but they have also have a contract to offer Stanton and are waiting for the National League MVP to decide between the Bay Area and St. Louis.
The Giants could certainly use Ohtani’s skills at the plate and on the mound, but in particular at the plate. If his power translates to the big leagues, acquiring Ohtani and Stanton could turn the Giants offense from one of the worst in baseball last year to one of the best in 2018. San Francisco ranked last in wRC+ (83) and ISO (.132), which measures a team or player’s raw power.
The Giants’ commitment to stability in the front office with general manager Brian Sabean and in the the dugout and manager Bruce Bochy should attract big name free agents because players know one poor season will not initiate a full rebuild.
By no means should anyone compare Ohtani to Ichiro Suzuki. Suzuki is arguably the greatest hitter of the modern era and Ohtani is no more than a talented, unproven prospect at the major league level.
But the Seattle Mariners have a history with Japanese players. Besides Ichiro, Hisashi Iwakuma has been a fixture in the team’s rotation
The Mariners only have $1.55 million in international bonus signing money to offer Ohtani. The Rangers, Yankees, Twins and Pirates all had more to offer, but Texas is the only team with more money that is still in the running to sign Ohtani.
This has to say a lot about Ohtani’s interest in Seattle and Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto’s committed pursuit of the Japanese superstar.
Injuries hurt the starting rotation, but pairing Ohtani with Felix Hernandez and James Paxton could give the Mariners a nice front three. Ohtani is expected to be used more as a pitcher but as an American League club, the Mariners have a leg up on the Giants in terms of being able to offer him at-bats.
Bob Nightengale of the USA Today reported several general managers believe the Mariners are the “clear-cut” front runners to land Ohtani.
The Rangers also have a history with Japanese players. Yu Darvish was the ace of the starting staff until he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline in July.
Texas has reportedly spent six years building a relationship with Ohtani, and general manager Jon Daniels has left the door open for Ohtani to pitch and hit should he sign with the Rangers.
The Cubs, Padres, and Dodgers could also shake up the sweepstakes. But the Mariners, Giants, and Rangers are the best fits.