Astros plan 'full-court press' in Ohtani pursuit

Two-way Japanese star has until Dec. 22 to sign with MLB club

December 2nd, 2017

HOUSTON -- Add the Astros to the list of teams that will pursue Japanese star Shohei Ohtani.

Astros owner Jim Crane confirmed to on Friday that the defending World Series champions would put on a "full-court press" to try to lure Ohtani to Houston. The two-way star was posted on Friday and has three weeks -- no later than Dec. 22 -- to sign with a big league club that will have to pay a $20 million posting fee to the Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan.

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"We'd certainly be interested," Crane said. "Based on everything our guys have seen, he's got really good stuff and he could be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, and he's got a bat. We need a left-handed DH, so there you have it."

Ohtani, who throws right-handed and hits left-handed, spent most of the 2017 season sidelined with an ankle injury, but he went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA in 21 games and batted .322 with 22 home runs in 382 plate appearances in 2016. The Astros can offer only a $300,000 signing bonus to any international player.

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"There's a lot of value there because once you get past the $20 million posting fee, you're basically signing him like a Draft pick and he's going to get a Minor League contract," Crane said. "It's going to be interesting how that plays out. Based upon the way he projects, that's a pretty good value. Our guys are watching it. We'll be on it. Hopefully, we'll get a crack at him."

Last week, it was reported his agency, CAA, sent a memo to all 30 teams requesting a written explanation why Ohtani would be a good fit for each club. The Astros, of course, won the World Series a month ago and are built to contend for the next few years, which could be appealing to Ohtani. Being in the American League, Ohtani could serve as DH when he's not pitching.

"We'll have a good team for a while," Crane said. "Hopefully we have as good a shot as anybody."

Crane said he hopes the Astros get a chance to meet with Ohtani and his representatives. When the Astros tried to sign out of Japan in 2014, they flew Crane and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens to Tanaka's home in Los Angeles as part of their presentation.

"I'm in the recruiting business," Crane said. "I've been recruiting my whole life. We'll put a full-court press on it. Once we get the opportunity to interview him, we'll probably send the A-team out there. I don't know who all that will be yet. We'll figure that out once we get a shot.

"It would be great if we could pull it off. It would be great for the city. It would be great for the team. He seems like a pretty down-to-earth, humble guy, and he would fit in really well if we could pull it off. You've got to remember, everybody is after him."

Japanese media outlets reported Ohtani is currently in Los Angeles, and he is expected to meet with Major League clubs as soon as next week.

"I imagine he'll be interviewing teams," Crane said. "Hopefully, we'll be one of those teams."