Mariners set to make best pitch for Ohtani

Dipoto says club will pursue every avenue to acquire Japanese star

November 23rd, 2017

SEATTLE -- Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, debuting a new weekly podcast with club broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith, made no effort to hide his team's eagerness to recruit Shohei Ohtani now that there's a posting process in place to allow the Japanese two-way star to pursue a Major League career.

Dipoto said the Mariners have been preparing their pitch for the 23-year-old Ohtani for more than a year now, and the GM believes the franchise's history with Japanese players could be a significant factor.

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In the wide-ranging podcast, Dipoto said the club would be willing to play designated hitter in the outfield several times a week to open a spot for Ohtani to hit next season if he signed with Seattle. Dipoto acknowledged last week's trade of hard-throwing relief prospect to the White Sox for international bonus money was made largely with the goal of accumulating more money to compete for the Japanese star.

The Mariners have $1.55 million in international bonus money now available, which is below the $3.5 million of the Yankees and Rangers, but more than the majority of Major League teams. Dipoto noted Ohtani seems motivated by more than just cash, but he said he'll continue pursuing every avenue possible, including further trades for slot money.

"We're not going to leave a stone unturned in the efforts to do it again if the opportunity arises," Dipoto said. "We'll be responsible in how we do it, but we understand this is a one-time buying opportunity and you have to be prepared.

"To me, the worst thing we can be is sitting on the sideline being too conservative, sitting on our hands when an opportunity to change the history of the organization comes along. Because this is what this might be."

Dipoto, who scouted Ohtani in Japan in September, said the Mariners will put the full-court recruiting press on as soon as possible.

"We have spent most of the past year preparing for this moment," Dipoto said. "Whether it's written presentations, something aesthetic for him to touch and feel ... we've put together a film on the merits of Seattle and the Mariners. And we're hopeful at some point we get to sit down in the same room."

The Mariners have had at least one Japanese player on their roster every year since 1998, including standouts , , Kenji Johjima and Kazuhiro Sasaki, as well as Japanese ownership.

"The history of the Japanese player in Seattle has been so celebrated and some of the greatest players in our franchise's history have been from Japan," Dipoto said. "There is an attraction there. There has to be, for a player who is as respectful of those who came before him as Shohei Ohtani appears to be.

"That is a positive in our favor, especially since all those players have been willing to assist us in the recruiting process, among others. We're not joking around. We're bringing the big guns. We're bringing the 'A' game. When we sit down, we'll be sitting down with very notable faces, and that is a part of what we want to sell.

"We want to sell the Seattle experience and what it means to the Japanese-Americans, our culture and how this organization has trended so positively when we have the star Japanese player. And make no mistake, this is a star Japanese player. He's gifted. He's going to make some team a lot better."

Just how good is Ohtani?

"I've seen players hit a ball 500 feet and players throw a ball 100 mph," Dipoto said. "I've just never seen one player do both of those."