How will Seattle Mariners fit into Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes?

Jun 14, 2023, 11:10 AM

Seattle Mariners Shohei Ohtani...

Shohei Ohtani looks on against the Seattle Mariners April 4, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Roughly six years ago, the Seattle Mariners and 28 other MLB teams came up short in the sweepstakes for arguably the most tantalizing international free agent in baseball history.

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Despite some speculation that two-way Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani would come to Seattle, he instead went to an American League West rival, signing with the Los Angeles Angels ahead of the 2018 season.

Ohtani is now in the midst of his sixth season in MLB, and the two-time All-Star and 2021 AL MVP is a pending free agent after this season, which could lead to the biggest sweepstakes in the league’s history of free agency.

Could Ohtani come to the Mariners this time? Or will he at least leave the Angels, who have yet to finish with a winning record in any season since Ohtani joined them?

ESPN senior MLB insider Jeff Passan told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Tuesday that he thinks Ohtani will likely remain on the West Coast.

“It’s hard to see the Angels being a better fit than the Dodgers,” Passan said. “But then again, I think Shohei Ohtani is someone who’s very loyal and he appreciates comfort. And man, to leave that behind – whether it is the Dodgers, the Mets, the Mariners, the Giants, the Yankees, the handful of teams that could be in the Ohtani sweepstakes – they’re going to have to do a really good sales job, I think, because extracting him from that place where he’s comfortable and where they give him everything he wants is a tough thing to do.”

On Wednesday, Brock and Salk dove further into the conversation about Ohtani’s pending free agency and the potential of the Mariners prying him away from Southern California.

“I read that and felt that yesterday, it’s really (about the area of) Los Angeles more than the Angels,” Brock Huard said. “… That L.A. has become pretty comfortable. Now, it’s a pretty easy flight from Seattle back to Japan, as well.”

Hear the full conversation in the middle segment of this podcast from Wednesday’s Brock and Salk:

Mike Salk, like Passan, thinks the Dodgers are the heavy favorite to sign Ohtani this offseason.

“I think he is going to be a Dodger. And why wouldn’t you (if you were) in his shoes?” Salk said. “You look around and say, ‘This organization is doing it perfectly and every other organization around is trying to keep up.’ Unless he has that Baker Mayfield agenda, Brock, that I’ve brought up before … ‘Can I go to Seattle, or a place like it, and win for the first time and be the greatest hero ever to a city?'”

Huard noted that there’s a lot of history with the Mariners and Japanese players. On the pitching side, Seattle got standout seasons from closer Kazuhiro Sazaki and starter Hisashi Iwakuma. But of course no Japanese player has been a bigger star in Seattle than future Hall of Fame outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.

“I remember having this conversation (during the 2018 Ohtani free agent) sweepstakes and how many times we brought up Ichiro and the role that Ichiro (played),” Huard said. “And I could not help but think as I see Ichiro there every day of (Mariners) spring training in his uniform and his connection and his love for the city and this organization that I would think (would play a role). But I’m making an assumption … I’m assuming that is a great thing. Maybe (Ohtani) would never, with the way some of that culture works, want to play in the shadow of Ichiro or never, ever want to do anything to take away from Ichiro’s legacy and history. I mean, we just don’t know some of those things. But he does feel awfully comfortable down there in that (LA) market.”

While the idea of Ohtani anchoring the Mariners’ lineup and rotation is awfully appealing, Brock and Salk ultimately don’t think it’ll happen.

“Doesn’t it feel like he’s going to the Dodgers when this is all said and done? They’ve got the money and they’ve got it all,” Salk said.

“If he can’t be a Mariner, go be a Dodger and get the heck out of this division,” Huard added.

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How will Seattle Mariners fit into Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes?