Shohei Ohtani meets with all seven finalists: What to know and what happens next
The recruitment of Japanese star Shohei Ohtani continues
Only a few days ago, we learned that star Japanese pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani had narrowed his field of major-league suitors to seven teams and the recruitment process has continued in earnest. In fact, it seems like rapid fire. By the end of Tuesday, Ohtani and his representatives had met face to face with the front offices (and more, in some cases) of each of those seven teams.
This means we're likely to see one of two things by the end of the week:
- Ohtani narrows the field to something like two or three finalists and wants a follow-up meeting with each
- Ohtani picks his team
Like surely everyone else watching this painfully slow offseason unfold, I would love to skip one and head straight to two. I suspect with the deadline for Ohtani to pick a team being over two weeks away, however, he's going to again narrow the field and have a second round of face-to-face meetings. In fact, the next round probably takes place in the city of each team, so Ohtani can check out where his new home might be, both the ballpark and potential places of residence during the season.
Let's run through what we know on each team meeting and then attempt to offer up some informed speculation. One thing to keep in mind here is that Ohtani has been very quiet and is said to value confidentiality. We simply don't know many details about what he's really looking for, other than to play "both ways" in Major League Baseball.
|It's unclear who went first, but the Dodgers met with Ohtani and Nez Balelo of Creative Artists Agency ( CAA ) in their Los Angeles-based office on Monday, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Past this, we haven't really heard much about the Dodgers' specific plans to sell Ohtani. The smart money is they stress their history with international players, possibly seeing if current Dodger Kenta Maeda can lend a hand, while also selling the city of Los Angeles and how close the Dodgers are to winning the World Series. Further, they have such pitching depth they can be creative in preventing overuse next season in the rotation.|
|The Giants also met with Ohtani at CAA Monday in L.A., sending a "large contingent" that included every big name in the front office, manager Bruce Bochy and catcher Buster Posey, reports Alex Pavlovic of NBC Bay Area. Pavlovic further reports that the Giants' pitch to Ohtani included a plan to make him a frontline starting pitcher and part-time outfielder with 300-400 at-bats next year. This is likely a similar pitch from the rest of the NL clubs, but it's more substance than we heard from a few others. Interestingly, the San Francisco Chronicle reports Ohtani wants to join a team without other Japanese players "to avoid taking attention from his countrymen" and for similar reasons would like to avoid teams that have had a Japanese star in the past.|
|The Angels met with Ohtani and his agent Monday night, per Jeff Fletcher of Los Angeles Daily News. Details on the meeting are few and far between, aside from general manager Billy Eppler being there and manager Mike Scioscia likely also being involved. Fletcher reports there was no Mike Trout, as Trout was recently married. Perhaps a selling point would be to play with a generational talent like Trout and a legend in Albert Pujols.|
|The Rangers meeting with Ohtani and his agent appears to have taken place Tuesday (Evan Grant of star-telegram.com). General manager Jon Daniels and other officials reportedly flew out Monday night to meet in the Los Angeles office of Ohtani's agent. Grant reports that Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus briefly appears in a recruiting video and speaks japanese "in a light-hearted cameo." There are also reports that the Rangers are going to pitch using a six-man rotation, which not only frees up Ohtani for more position playing but also more closely imitates the pitching schedule in NPB, where starters only work once a week. Keep in mind, the Rangers can offer the most money, too (roughly .55M). Yu Darvish thrived in Texas, so maybe that's a selling point (then again, maybe it's not if the report in the Giants section is to be believed).|
|The Mariners met with Ohtani and his agency on Tuesday in the office of the agency, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. If we can go with a cross-sport reference, we know the Mariners are putting the full-court press on Ohtani, but past that, few details have emerged. General manager Jerry Dipoto was surely there along with other front office personnel. Seattle's rich international history could be a selling point, but if the Chronicle report (see the Giants section) is true, the Mariners are behind the eight-ball here due to Ichiro Suzuki's past stardom.|
|The Cubs also had their meeting on Tuesday, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The specific pitch is likely to center around how good the Cubs have been the past three years and figure to be in the near future along with having an incredibly creative manager in Joe Maddon. One can envision some funky playoff usage if Ohtani isn't in the rotation (start in the outfield, pitch in relief for as long as he can go and then head back to the outfield). The specific pitch isn't being reported, but many have been discussing Theo Epstein's recruiting ability as a big Cubs advantage here. Of course, they are quite far from the West coast and that's said to be a problem.|
|The final team to meet with Ohtani and his reps, the Padres went last on Tuesday night, per late reports. There are connections here, such as Hideo Nomo's son being Ohtani's translator and Nomo working in the Padres' front office in a baseball adviser role. We already know the city is gorgeous and on the West coast. If Ohtani wants to be, by far, the biggest attraction on the team, maybe that's another selling point.|
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