The Los Angeles Angels have landed the biggest prize of the offseason.
Friday afternoon, the representatives for Japanese ace-slash-slugger Shohei Ohtani announced he will sign with the Angels one week after being posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan. The Halos have not yet confirmed the news themselves. Ohtani had until 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 22 to finalize a deal.
Here is the statement from Ohtani's representatives at CAA Sports:
"This morning, after a thorough, detailed process, Shohei Ohtani has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels. Shohei is humbled and flattered by all the time and effort that so many teams put into their presentations and sincerely thanks them for their professionalism. In the end, he felt a strong connection with the Angels and believes they can best help him reach his goals in Major League Baseball.
"I want to thank the clubs and everyone else for respecting our intent to make this very important process as private as possible. We were resolved to having a fair, methodical process. Teams clearly put in a lot of work, and we are grateful for that."
Early in the recruiting process Ohtani eliminated all East Coast teams and most Midwest teams from consideration, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres, and Rangers. As far as we know, Ohtani did not travel to any MLB cities for a visit.. He met face-to-face with seven teams earlier this week: Angels,
Because he is only 23, Ohtani is subject to MLB's international hard cap. The Angels have $2.315 million in cap space and certainly all of that will go to Ohtani. Both the Mariners ($3.5575 million) and Rangers ($3.535 million) had more to offer, though Ohtani will instead head to Anaheim. The Angels will pay the Fighters a $20 million posting fee.
Ohtani is, quite simply, the coolest baseball player in the world. He is a bona fide ace caliber pitcher with an upper-90s fastball and two legitimate out-pitches in his slider and splitter. Ohtani also brings legitimate left-handed power to the table, with a chance to sock 30 home runs if given enough at-bats.
It's unclear how the Angels will use Ohtani, though in all likelihood he will be in their rotation, and serve as the DH between starts. Pitchers in Japan start once a week, not once every five days in MLB. This was Ohtani's schedule in Japan:
- Sunday: Pitch
- Monday: Rest day (most Mondays are off-days in Japan)
- Tuesday through Thursday: DH days
- Friday and Saturday: Rest days
The Angels and Ohtani will have to get together to figure out a schedule that works. It's been speculated he could play some outfield between starts, though the Halos have a full outfield with Justin Upton, Mike Trout, and Kole Calhoun. Besides, Ohtani hasn't played the outfield regularly in three years, and pitching and hitting would be a lot to ask of his legs.
Nagging ankle and quad injuries hampered Ohtani in 2017 -- he had surgery on the ankle in October but will ready for spring training -- during which he hit .332/.403/.540 in 231 plate appearances and threw 25 1/3 innings with a 3.20 ERA. When fully healthy in 2016, Ohtani hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs in 382 plate appearances while throwing 140 innings with a 1.86 ERA and 174 strikeouts. That earned him the league MVP award.
For what it's worth, Jacob deGrom caliber pitcher and Evan Gattis type hitter. The consensus is he has far more upside on the mound, whereas he might be more like a solid contributor at the plate than an impact hitter. Still, with his arm, anything he gives you with the bat is a bonus.peg Ohtani as a potential
Beyond his age and talent, what made Ohtani so appealing to MLB teams is the cost. He was subject to MLB's international hard cap, meaning his bonus would be small, and it also limits him to a minor league contract. Ohtani will earn the league minimum in 2018 and remain under team control for six years like every other rookie. It's a bargain price.
The Angels went 80-82 and fell five games short of a wild-card spot in 2017. In addition to landing Ohtani, they'll also have a full season of Upton in 2018, plus any other additions they make this offseason. While it's too early to call the Halos a World Series contender, adding Ohtani definitely pushes the Angels much closer to the postseason.