The Angels remain in the mix for Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, as MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal reported on Sunday that they are one of seven teams which will meet with the right-handed pitcher/left-handed slugger this week in Los Angeles. The club has not confirmed the reports.
The other finalists in the Ohtani sweepstakes are the Mariners, Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Rangers and Cubs, according to reports. Ohtani, who was posted by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters on Friday, has until Dec. 22 to sign with a Major League team.
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All 30 clubs are believed to have responded to a questionnaire distributed by Ohtani's agency, CAA, which asked them to provide a written explanation outlining why the 23-year-old would be a good fit for their organization. On Sunday night, his list of potential suitors began to winnow after a slew of teams -- most notably the Yankees -- were informed that they were no longer in the running for Ohtani's services.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters that Ohtani seems to prefer clubs on the West Coast and in smaller markets.
"I know that our presentation was excellent," Cashman said. "The feedback from that was outstanding. But I did get a sense that I can't change that we're a big market, and I can't change we're in the East."
Because he is under 25, Ohtani will be subject to international signing rules, meaning his signing bonus cannot exceed $3.535 million. Among the short list of contenders, the Rangers have the largest international bonus pool ($3.535 million), followed by the Giants ($1.835 million), Mariners ($1.557 million) and Angels ($1.315 million). The Dodgers, Padres and Cubs can only offer Ohtani a $300,000 bonus. Whichever team lands Ohtani will also pay a $20 million posting fee to the Nippon-Ham Fighters.
In an attempt to bolster their pursuit of Ohtani, the Angels added over $1 million to their international pool space last week in a trade with the Braves.
"This deal puts us in a stronger position in our pursuit of Shohei Ohtani," Angels general manager Billy Eppler said on Thursday. "This money was acquired with an eye toward that."
In Anaheim, Ohtani would have the opportunity to serve as designated hitter when he's not pitching, play alongside Michael Trout and live in a region with a significant Japanese population. Though the Angels already have a full-time DH in Jose Pujols, the club believes it can accommodate Ohtani's desire to be a two-way player in the Majors by having Pujols play more first base next season.
"He's a very strong player on both the mound and in the batter's box," Eppler said of Ohtani. "We feel that getting an opportunity to put him with our core group is an attractive thing for us, and we hope that he would want to take an opportunity to play along the best player in baseball."