LOS ANGELES -- In the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, the Dodgers were one of the teams to meet the two-way star on Monday, according to MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal. The club has not confirmed.Los Angeles is the only finalist that can offer Ohtani the chance to play for a 2017
LOS ANGELES -- In the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, the Dodgers were one of the teams to meet the two-way star on Monday, according to MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal. The club has not confirmed.
Los Angeles is the only finalist that can offer Ohtani the chance to play for a 2017 World Series team. Of course, nobody really knows if that's viewed as a pro or con by Ohtani. With the chance to win now comes the pressure to win now. What is clear is Ohtani's goal to be the most impactful combination pitcher-slugger in modern Major League ball -- the Babe Ruth of the digital age.
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The Dodgers are silent about Ohtani, but from various trustworthy reports, they are one of seven clubs still in the running after Sunday's cut down. And there is more for Ohtani to like about joining the Dodgers than just their recent World Series appearance.
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Los Angeles can boast the largest Japanese community on the U.S. mainland. The Dodgers have a history of success with Japanese pitchers -- Hideo Nomo, Kaz Ishii, Takashi Saito, Hiroki Kuroda, Kenta Maeda and Yu Darvish. They have a pitching coach, Rick Honeycutt, proven to be accommodating and helpful with Japanese pitchers. Dodger Stadium is generally considered pitcher friendly, and Ohtani's calling card -- despite a penchant for 500-foot homers -- is a triple-digit fastball.
The Dodgers have a Japanese soft-tissue specialist on the medical staff, Yosuke Nakajima; a Japanese-speaking director of team travel, Scott Akasaki; a Japanese-speaking manager of public relations, Daisuke Sugiura; and even a manager born in Okinawa to a Japanese mother, Dave Roberts.
And the Dodgers, who generally hide their intentions, were uncharacteristically public in their interest this season, when president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman took Orel Hershiser out of the broadcast booth and over to Japan for a scouting expedition of Ohtani.
Although Ohtani was still rehabbing from an ankle injury, he threw a bullpen session and took batting practice. Presumably, the Dodgers knew more about him from game video than they could compile in a practice session, but the trans-Pacific face time undoubtedly was meant to send a message of the club's sincerity.
The player and the team seem a solid fit. There is no real financial bidding war for the 23-year-old, who wants an MLB experience so badly that he's jumping now, bound to bonus limits because of his age, instead of waiting two more years when limits wouldn't apply.
Conveniently, the Dodgers are in the international bonus penalty box for their significant spending in previous seasons, so they are allowed to pay Ohtani only a $300,000 bonus (plus the $20 million posting fee to his team in Japan). For them, the timing couldn't be better.
L.A.'s starting pitching depth would allow Ohtani to gradually adjust to more frequent starts than needed in Japan. Management already has shown a desire to shuffle a sixth starter in and out of the rotation to provide rest for others.
The Dodgers apparently satisfied Ohtani's insistence to double as a hitter, even though American League clubs (Seattle and Anaheim) offer the additional option of designated hitter. With Los Angeles, Ohtani would likely be used in the outfield when he's not pitching.
The Dodgers recruited Ohtani five years ago when he was coming out of high school. But their chief recruiters at the time, Logan White and Acey Kohrogi, are now executives with the Padres. San Diego's general manager, A.J. Preller, also recruited Ohtani in 2012 on behalf of the Texas Rangers. Nomo and Saito also have current roles in the Padres' front office.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.