SEATTLE -- The Mariners made their pitch to Shohei Ohtani on Tuesday morning in Los Angeles. And now general manager Jerry Dipoto and his group must wait for the next move in what has turned into a high-stakes speed-dating game for the seven surviving contenders.According to sources and various media
SEATTLE -- The Mariners made their pitch to Shohei Ohtani on Tuesday morning in Los Angeles. And now general manager Jerry Dipoto and his group must wait for the next move in what has turned into a high-stakes speed-dating game for the seven surviving contenders.
According to sources and various media reports, the Rangers, Cubs and Padres also made their in-person presentations to Ohtani on Tuesday, after the Giants, Dodgers and Angels started things off Monday.
Which leaves the question of whether Ohtani and his representatives from the Creative Artists Agency will have a final answer soon, or take visits to any of the contending cities to scout things further.
Though Ohtani has until Dec. 22 to make a final decision, the process has moved quickly so far. Ohtani's CAA reps had all 30 Major League teams supply written answers -- in English and Japanese -- to a series of questions even before MLB had come to a final agreement on the posting process last Saturday with the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan.
Once that agreement was in place, Ohtani quickly whittled the teams he wanted to sit down in person with to the select seven, with his preference clearly leaning to clubs on the West Coast, as well as the Rangers and Cubs.
Dipoto and the Mariners are remaining mum on this week's developments, refusing to even confirm Tuesday's meeting. The other contending clubs also have taken similar silent approaches, clearly not wanting to make any mistakes at this critical juncture.
But it's a safe bet that Dipoto made a persuasive presentation regarding the Mariners' history with Japanese players, as well as the strong Japanese community in Seattle, the lure of the Puget Sound's scenic waterfront city, Safeco Field's renown as a pitching park that still plays well for a left-handed power hitter like Ohtani, and how he could be a difference maker for a club that felt it was strongly positioned for a playoff push last season before injuries undercut the previous year's progress.
One of Ohtani's questions to clubs concerned the teams' medical training and player-performance philosophies and facilities, and the Mariners just hired Dr. Lorena Martin, who brings an impressive combination of education and experience in mental and physical preparation combined with analytics.
The Mariners also present a familiar Spring Training environment for Ohtani, who was at the adjacent Padres facility in Peoria, Ariz., with his Nippon Ham Fighters club for visits the past two years.
The Mariners also have extensive experience helping prominent Japanese players integrate into their team and city, having had at least one Japanese player on their 25-man roster every year since 1998. Ichiro Suzuki, one of Ohtani's favorite players growing up in Japan, spent 12 seasons as a Mariners star from 2001-12.
Hisashi Iwakuma, who has been one of Seattle's top pitchers the past six years, recently signed a Minor League deal to remain with the Mariners as he comes back from shoulder surgery. Kazuhiro Sasaki was the Mariners' closer from 2000-03, Kenji Johjima was the starting catcher from 2006-09, and utility infielder Munenori Kawasaki and outfielder Norichika Aoki have played with the club in recent seasons.
Mac Suzuki was the first Japanese player for the Mariners, pitching for Seattle in 1996 and 1998-99. And the club was the first -- and only -- MLB franchise to have Japanese ownership, as the Nintendo Corporation was the primary owner from 1992-2016, and still holds a minority share, which resulted in the Mariners being a popular and often-televised club in Japan during Ohtani's youth.
Despite his current silence, Dipoto has made no secret of his team's desire to land Ohtani in the lead-up to negotiations, and he's been aggressive on the trade market to add international bonus pool money. After making a trade last month with the White Sox to add $500,000, Dipoto added $2 million more in separate deals with the Twins and Marlins. That brought Seattle's available funds up to $3,557,500, which gives them the most to offer among the remaining contenders.
But Ohtani has chosen to come to the Majors at age 23, rather than wait until he turns 25 and be an international free agent capable of commanding a huge contract. Which is why Dipoto and other GMs have put on their recruiting hats.
"This is maybe the most unique circumstance I can recall in baseball," Dipoto said two weeks ago. "It is all about how you as a city, an organization and as human beings appeal to an individual rather than the final paycheck. In my lifetime, that's never really been a thing."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.