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10 perfect-fit teams for Japan's Ohtani

MLB.com @philgrogers

There's so much we still don't know about the upcoming Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, including whether the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters will actually post him this offseason.

But let's assume they will grant Ohtani's wish to join Major League Baseball two seasons ahead of when he could as a true free agent, in the process sacrificing a fortune in terms of salary and signing bonus. As audacious as that idea is, how nuts could this process become?

There's so much we still don't know about the upcoming Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, including whether the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters will actually post him this offseason.

But let's assume they will grant Ohtani's wish to join Major League Baseball two seasons ahead of when he could as a true free agent, in the process sacrificing a fortune in terms of salary and signing bonus. As audacious as that idea is, how nuts could this process become?

Well, what if Ohtani -- that's the name on the back of his Fighters jersey, but you'll also see it shortened to Otani -- lets it be known he would love to play alongside Yu Darvish, his idol as he was developing as a two-way talent. As it happens, Darvish is eligible for free agency this offseason, too. Imagine if one team was able to sign both the 31-year-old Darvish and Ohtani, Japan's 23-year-old Babe Ruth?

If a team were able to, and if it were willing to give Ohtani the chance to pile up 400-plus plate appearances as an outfielder and designated hitter, that would be one-stop shopping of the highest order.

It seems a given that Ohtani is going to get the chance to be a true two-way player if he is posted this fall. He'll have leverage to get just about anything he wants, except for money. The good thing is he can really rake (1.004 OPS last season; .969 this year).

Financial terms will be limited by baseball's international signing rules, but Ohtani has said he's not motivated by money. It's also worth noting that he could be like Michael Jordan with the Bulls, earning far more in endorsements than salary.

Video: Duquette discusses where Ohtani may land in MLB

For Ohtani, it will be about fit. Here are teams that seem to make the most sense:

1. Cubs
With Jake Arrieta and John Lackey both headed toward free agency, these guys are the hypothetical leaders for the Darvish-Ohtani daily double. Chicago has plenty of room under the tax threshold, and stars like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Kyle Hendricks have enough of a service-clock running start on Ohtani that this would be a good arrival time for another entry-level player with a big salary in his future.

The Cubs would have to either trade Kyle Schwarber or make him their No. 2 catcher for Ohtani to get regular plate appearances, however. He pitches right-handed, but he hits left-handed, so it seems impossible to fit him alongside Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward and Schwarber. But if any manager can work magic, it's Joe Maddon. Ohtani would have to be intrigued about joining Chicago's highly competitive young mix, Darvish notwithstanding, and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is the best salesman in the business. The Cubs are among 11 teams limited to a $300,000 bonus, however.

2. Yankees
They're always a top consideration, and they love the bargain version of Ohtani, because he'd make it easier for them to finally stay under the tax threshold. Like Boston and some others, New York has acquired additional international signing room, which could help a little. Ohtani could pitch along Luis Severino (and Masahiro Tanaka) and hit alongside Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, helping balance the lineup. He could move between designated hitter and the outfield, and that's the advantage all American League teams have over National League teams in selling themselves to him. And should Tanaka opt out of his contract, the Yanks could be candidates to sign both Ohtani and Darvish.

3. Rangers
Texas can make it all about Ohtani. He could be its ace and hit in the middle of the order as the left fielder or designated hitter, although it might take a trade to open up those at-bats for him. The Rangers made Darvish comfortable for almost six seasons, including one lost to Tommy John surgery, so they have support systems in place. One issue is that Shin-Soo Choo is signed for three more years, and Texas' lineup would be awfully left-handed with Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Willie Calhoun, Choo and Ohtani.

Video: Morosi on chances Ohtani is in MLB in 2018

4. Mariners
Ichiro's old team is another of the usual suspects with Japanese players. They have a need for Ohtani in the rotation as they head toward the final two seasons on Felix Hernandez's deal. Ohtani's bat would also work on in a lineup that is right-handed heavy, and future at-bats would open if Nelson Cruz isn't re-signed beyond 2018.

5. Dodgers 
Los Angeles is going to be looking at losing a Draft pick soon if it doesn't get under the payroll threshold, which could make it difficult to re-sign Darvish. If it could keep Darvish, it would be in perfect shape to do the two-step with Ohtani. The Dodgers have used 14 left fielders this season, but they look ready to turn that spot over to Alex Verdugo, which could make it tough to fit Ohtani in the outfield. Working behind Clayton Kershaw would have a appeal for any pitcher, however.

6. Padres
No team has done more work to put it in position for Ohtani than San Diego, which has a Japanese flavor throughout its organization. It even hired a conditioning coach with ties to Ohtani last year. He'd be a crowning piece to general manager A.J. Preller's rebuild, bringing excitement to Petco Park as a young ace and a middle-of-the-order bat alongside Wil Myers. It's worth noting that the Friars could be a destination for both Darvish and Ohtani, as they have less than $30 million guaranteed on the books for 2018.

Video: IT on Ohtani potentially coming over to the Majors

7. Red Sox
Epstein, now with the Cubs, was Boston's general manager when the Red Sox acquired Daisuke Matsuzaka. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski hasn't been noted for Asian signings, but this is an aggressive ownership group and front office. The bargain Ohtani would be a hedge to help the Red Sox stay below the tax threshold, but Hanley Ramirez complicates the playing-time equation. For what it's worth, Ruth certainly enjoyed his two-way years at Fenway.

8. Giants 
Looking for pop in the lineup, why not get it from a guy with a triple-digit fastball and nasty secondary pitches? Like the Cubs, Dodgers and Padres, the Giants are on the list of teams that can pay Ohtani only a $300,000 bonus. But for lifestyle and outside money, AT&T Park would be a great place to be based. The Bay Area certainly seems to work for Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry.

9. Astros 
Now here's a lineup that wouldn't seem to need much help. However, the left field/DH situation is at least somewhat open next season, and this is a front office that thinks globally. If general manager Jeff Luhnow has sold owner Jim Crane on the analytics behind Ohtani's two-way success, Houston will be in the running. The Astros -- yet another team limited to a $300,000 bonus -- are a lot like the Cubs with their young base of talent, but they can fit in one more hitter because of the DH.

Video: Duquette, McMaster on Blue Jays maybe landing Ohtani

10. Blue Jays
They were ahead of the curve with their international efforts, making them one of the teams with Ohtani ties that go back to his high school years. He'd be a huge asset, but the timing seems off with the Jays seemingly on their way down after consecutive trips to the AL Championship Series. The one thing they can sell that no one else can is Canada. If Ohtani embraces the culture, they'll have reason to talk.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.