Shohei Ohtani picks over Mariners for rival Angels
Shohei Ohtani has made his decision, and while he will play plenty of games at Safeco Field in 2017, they won’t be in a Mariners uniform.
The two-way Japanese phenom announced Friday that he intends to join the American League West rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, picking over the Mariners and five other teams that he had considered as finalists for his services.
The Mariners put on a full-court press to try to sway the 23-year-old Ohtani to come to Seattle to serve as a starting pitcher and designated hitter, even adding $2 million in international signing money over the previous two days in trades to become the team out of the seven finalists with the most available to pay him. In the end, Ohtani still chose to join an Angels team that features stars Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Albert Pujols.
The Angels themselves added $1 million in signing money with a Wednesday trade with Minnesota, giving them $2.315 million available. That ranked third behind the Mariners ($3.557 million) and the Rangers ($3.535 million) among teams in the Ohtani sweepstakes.
Ohtani’s jump to America has captured the imagination of the baseball world as he is perhaps the closest modern equivalent to Babe Ruth. That’s because he was both an ace starting pitcher and a power-hitting presence at the plate for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball Organization. He’ll likely be the first American League pitcher to see regular playing time as a designated hitter or outfielder since the DH was instituted in 1973.
Agent Nez Balelo said the 2016 Japanese MVP “felt a true bond with the Angels.”
The Angels will have to pay the $20 million posting fee to the Nippon Ham Fighters, but not a huge salary to Ohtani, who will sign a minor league contact.
Ohtani was 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA this year, and was slowed by thigh and ankle injuries. He hit .332 in 65 games with eight homers and 31 RBIs.
The Angels went 80-82 this year and missed the playoffs.
Here is part of the statement released by Ohtani’s agency about his decision:
Here’s the first part of agent Nez Balelo’s statement on Ohtani: pic.twitter.com/K1qVF96x1X
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) December 8, 2017
Expect the MLB offseason market to pick up quickly, as much of baseball was waiting on Ohtani’s decision before making bigger moves. That will likely include Miami trading 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton. Seattle did get a jump on the market Thursday with its acquisition of two-time All-Star Dee Gordon from the Marlins.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.