Drayer: Moving on from Ohtani

Dec 8, 2017, 1:39 PM | Updated: 5:41 pm
Shohei Ohtani made his eagerly-anticipated decision Friday, choosing to sign with the Angels. (AP)

The pursuit of Shohei Ohtani is over. Ohtani has chosen his team and it is not the Seattle Mariners. Seattle fans will get to see plenty of the two-way star however, starting May 4-6 when he comes to Safeco Field with his new team the Angels.

Shohei Ohtani picks over Mariners for rival Angels

The team that was never pointed to as being a favorite, the team that Ohtani had the fewest connections to, the team that perhaps had the least buzz of any of the seven who were left vying for his services after first cuts comes away with what has the potential to be a franchise history-changing player.

A crushing blow no doubt for Jerry Dipoto, who had declared and demonstrated that the Mariners were indeed “all in.” Preparations had been ongoing for the better part of a year should they get the opportunity for a face-to-face with the elusive super star. They got that meeting, and surprisingly little more. While details have yet to come out of any of the seven interviews that took place in a span of 48 hours or what came next, it doesn’t sound like he made a visit to Seattle, or even left California for that matter. A statement from his agent said that it came down to “a true bond (he felt) with the Angels” and that he saw them as having “the best environment to develop and reach the next level.”

This will all be broken down in the coming days but for now the Mariners must turn their focus elsewhere. A division rival, in a division that was already tough, just got better. How much better in year one of Ohtani remains to be seen. A rotation headed by the oft-injured Garrett Richards, desperately in need of help, got it. They cannot, however, expect 30 starts from Ohtani, who made all of five starts last year due to injury and never pitched more than 160 innings in a season. If he indeed wants to hit a significant amount then we are going to see a lot of Albert Pujols at 1B, which is hardly ideal. It’s not the easiest fit, and I am by no means saying it won’t work or Ohtani will be a bust, but there could be bumps in the road early on and the Mariners should look to capitalize on that. There is plenty of work to be done before then.

There is the matter of the international bonus pool that the Mariners had hoped to spend on Ohtani. Dipoto traded for an additional $2.5 million dollars of international slot money and was left with just over three and a half million, use-them-or-lose-them dollars, to be spent by June 15 on remaining eligible international players. A gamble, perhaps, to send prospects in exchange for Ohtani dollars, but Dipoto does have the opportunity to use that money to help replenish the farm system with a handful of Braves prospects who were released from their contracts when MLB punished Atlanta for international signing violations and a number of Cuban prospects who will become available shortly as well.

While focused on landing Ohtani, Dipoto did not overlook what needed to be done for 2018. Two big needs have been filled with the additions of Ryon Healy and Dee Gordon, both of whom fit into the plan of building the core, with five years of club control of Healy and Gordon under contract through 2020. Dipoto can now turn his attention to the pitching, and with a player at every position signed through at least 2020, that focus can remain on the pitching moving forward. Throughout the offseason Dipoto has indicated that he would look to add what could be either a starter or a reliever. With Ohtani off the board, a starter should be the focus.

The Mariners, along with the Rangers, Dodgers, Cubs, Padres and Giants will have to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and move on. The Winter Meetings start Sunday at the Disney Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Orlando. Perhaps they can all buy each other a stiff drink.

Shannon Drayer

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Drayer: Moving on from Ohtani