Shohei Ohtani, the intriguing two-way star from Japan, is getting closer to choosing a major league team. He has narrowed his choice to seven of the 30 clubs in North America and will begin meeting with them face to face in the Los Angeles area as he moves toward a final decision.
The seven teams are: the Seattle Mariners, the San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Diego Padres, the Los Angeles Angels, the Chicago Cubs and the Texas Rangers, according to several people in baseball with knowledge of the situation.
All seven teams will now get the chance to make their pitch to Ohtani, a free agent from Japan who is not only highly talented but also extremely affordable because of restrictions under the international signing system.
On Sunday, Ohtani’s representatives told the Yankees and Boston Red Sox that he was not interested in signing with them, which came as a surprise considering the prominence of both clubs.
The teams still in play, predominantly on the West Coast, have until Dec. 22 to sign Ohtani, who is 23. But it remains generally unknown exactly what Ohtani’s decision-making criteria will be as he moves toward picking a club for whom he will most likely pitch, and possibly be a regular hitter as well, in the 2018 season.
Money — at least in terms of how much any team can pay Ohtani now — is most likely not a major factor in his decision because, by major league standards, no one is allowed to pay him all that much at the moment. Indeed, he is likely to make much more in endorsement deals in the near future than he will from the signing bonus and rookie salary he will receive.
As for which team will win out in the bidding, it is worth noting that the Mariners have a long and successful history with Japanese players, including Ichiro Suzuki, Kazuhiro Sasaki and, most recently, Hisashi Iwakuma. In addition, Nintendo of America, an offshoot of the Japanese electronics and video game company, still owns a small piece of the team.