SAN DIEGO -- The Padres remain in the running for Shohei Ohtani, the star two-way free agent from Japan, according to a report from MLB Network's Jon Heyman.Ohtani, who was posted by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters on Friday, has until Dec. 22 to sign with a big league club. On
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres remain in the running for Shohei Ohtani, the star two-way free agent from Japan, according to a report from MLB Network's Jon Heyman.
Ohtani, who was posted by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters on Friday, has until Dec. 22 to sign with a big league club. On Sunday, reports began to surface regarding which teams will meet with Ohtani in the coming days, and the Padres are one of the clubs who will get to do so.
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The 23-year-old Ohtani is a flame-throwing right-handed pitcher and a power-hitting lefty batter. He's undoubtedly one of the most unique free agents in recent memory. And, because he's entering the Majors younger than 25, he's subject to international signing rules, making him extremely affordable as well.
The Padres, however, are limited to $300,000 in the money they can offer Ohtani as a signing bonus following a penalty they incurred for exceeding their bonus pool during the 2016-17 international signing period. (Other teams can pay him north of $3 million.) On top of the bonus, Ohtani would enter the big leagues on a rookie-level contract. Whoever Ohtani chooses must also pay the Fighters a posting fee of $20 million.
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For the past year, the Padres have touted their open-mindedness as an organization when it comes to two-way players. Last offseason, they converted Christian Bethancourt from catcher to relief pitcher, and he made the Opening Day roster in a two-way role before being sent to the Minors early in the season.
"It's always interesting," Padres general manager A.J. Preller said last month from the GM Meetings in Orlando, Fla., when asked about Ohtani. "Any time you can have somebody that's a special talent, you don't want to limit that. And I think it's good for the game of baseball. ... It really comes down to the individual, and it takes a special individual. But again, at least in our organization, you never want to say that something's not possible."
The Padres also have several ties to Ohtani, which could prove useful in his decision-making. Hideo Nomo and Takashi Saito, former big league pitchers from Japan, work in the club's front office. Former Fighters trainer Seiichiro Nakagaki also works as the club's director of applied sports science. And until last season, the Padres had a deal in place with the Fighters, allowing them to train at their Spring Training complex in Peoria, Ariz.
It's unclear how many other teams are in the running for Ohtani. But it appears his preference is for the West Coast, with the Dodgers, Giants and Mariners reportedly still in the mix.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.