Shohei Ohtani posted: Looking at every MLB team's chances of signing him
We surveyed the market and have broken the field down into tiers
This winter's hottest free agent is Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani, a high-quality pitcher and hitter alike. Ohtani just so happens to offerin the winter's class, too. He's guaranteed to sign for far less than his market value, and it's not entirely clear what he wants from his suitors -- he's requested each of the 30 teams fill out a questionnaire, suggesting he's open to all comers, provided they give him ample reason to be interested.
Predicting where Ohtani will land is not more art than science, it's more akin to using a random number generator than anything else. We aren't going to do that, but we wanted to provide everyone with a guide on the various clusters of teams: where they stand, what they have to offer, and so on. We're going to generalize because there's no other way to do it.
So, with that in mind, here's our best shot at organizing the teams.
The biggest spenders
If money were the prime motivator for Ohtani, then it stands to reason he wouldn't be heading to the majors this winter -- not when he could've waited a few years in order to land a more lucrative contract.
Nonetheless, highlighting the teams who can offer Ohtani the most money is a fine way to start this process. Here's the eight teams with the most international bonus pool money available:
It's tempting to note the Rangers helped Yu Darvish make a successful transition to the United States, and that they recently signed Anthony Gose with the intent of letting him pitch and hit. Does either factor really help their case? Who knows.
The Yankees have been viewed as the favorite because 1. they are the Yankees, and 2. they can offer a good amount of money as well as the chance to join an impressive young core for a storied franchise in a huge market -- or, uh, basically everything. The Twins and Mariners are both popular darkhorses. The Angels would be fun because, come on, who doesn't want to see Ohtani paired with Mike Trout?
The only team listed above with seemingly no shot at landing Ohtani is the Marlins, who are presumably too preoccupied trying to trade the current MVP to appeal to a potential future MVP. The Sun Sentinel reported on Saturday that the team was not expected to jump into the fray for the talented pitcher.
The two-way fits
Again, Ohtani doesn't seem like he values money more than -- well, whatever it is he values. As such, the door is open for other teams who can offer something in place of money. For example, if Ohtani highly values the opportunity to play both ways from day one, he might find the Rays and Dodgers more appealing.
The Rays permitted Brendan McKay, the No. 4 pick in last year's draft, to do both during his professional debut -- and seem willing to allow him to continue for the foreseeable future. The Dodgers had tinkered with using outfielder Brett Eibner as a pitcher, but he hurt himself (and later underwent Tommy John surgery) before that plan was enacted in games.
The aforementioned Rangers also gain appeal -- provided, that is, they're serious about embracing two-way players.
Of course, the odds are that every team would agree to give Ohtani a chance at playing both ways if that's his top priority and the only thing holding him back from signing. As such, this one is probably an overstated -- or, at least, easily erased -- advantage. Sorry, St. Petersburg.
One final thing to note about his fit as a two-way player: An AL team might be a more natural selection for Ohtani, with the ability to DH on his days off from pitching. Using him as a DH rather than in the field would also reduce the risk of injury, which in Ohtani's case would mean losing both a key part of the lineup and starting rotation.
Perhaps the key to Ohtani's heart is being on a good team? If so, the World Series champion Astros have to be on his shortlist. As do the Dodgers, Cubs, and Red Sox, each of whom can offer Ohtani what the Yankees can, save for the financial aspect.
The Nationals and Indians could pitch Ohtani on being the final piece needed for them to realize their championship aspirations. Meanwhile, the Rockies, Brewers, and Diamondbacks can sell Ohtani on helping solidify their status as perennial contenders.
Heck, the Cardinals could solicit Ohtani as the player who returns them to their status as perennial contenders.
The catch is that if Ohtani were concerned about winning and winning alone, he probably wouldn't need teams to submit questionnaires. He could've just checked Baseball-Reference.
Then there's every other team we haven't already touched upon.
The Reds and A's offer history and the chance to join on-the-rise cores. The Phillies and White Sox on being part of their on-the-rise cores … once the other parts arrive, that is. The Braves fib and tell Ohtani that SunTrust Park will be the house he built, as opposed to local taxpayers. The Orioles, Blue Jays, Mets, Royals, Tigers, and Padres can each offer their own spin, too.
If we had to pick a favorite, we'd go with the Yankees for the reasons we already provided. But almost every team has something that could be described as appealing to the right set of eyes. In other words, this is going to be a fun, and potentially exhausting process -- for the teams and their fans, but also for Ohtani, who has to ask himself: just what is important to me?
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