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Pirates' Huntington has interest in Ohtani

Pittsburgh GM calls Japanese standout a 'special talent'
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- Put the Pirates on the list of Shohei Ohtani's suitors.

Pittsburgh reportedly scouted Ohtani, the two-way superstar from Nippon Professional Baseball, and general manager Neal Huntington made it clear Wednesday night the Pirates' interest is serious.

PITTSBURGH -- Put the Pirates on the list of Shohei Ohtani's suitors.

Pittsburgh reportedly scouted Ohtani, the two-way superstar from Nippon Professional Baseball, and general manager Neal Huntington made it clear Wednesday night the Pirates' interest is serious.

The Bucs are "certainly among the group" of teams interested in Ohtani, the Japanese pitcher/outfielder who may be the most sought-after man in baseball this winter, Huntington said in an interview with KDKA-FM.

FAQ about Ohtani, posting system

"He's a special talent, both on the mound and in the batter's box," Huntington added. "We believe we can help this young man become a superstar over here."

Ohtani, 23, slashed .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs in 382 plate appearances while recording a 1.86 ERA and 174 strikeouts over 140 innings on the mound in 2016. He missed time due to an ankle injury during the season but put up a .942 OPS and 3.20 ERA in his return.

Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo, sent a questionnaire to all 30 clubs last week asking why they would be the best fit for his client. According to The Associated Press, Ohtani is asking teams to identify -- in English and Japanese -- his strengths and weaknesses as a player and to describe their player-development system, their medical/training programs, their Major and Minor League facilities and how they would make him feel comfortable.

Huntington told KDKA-FM the Pirates are in the "final stages" of putting together their submission, and they hope to eventually meet with Ohtani in person.

Hot Stove Tracker

"We are going to do everything in our power and hopefully have him honor us with the ability to get beyond the written presentation, get beyond the initial 30-club presentation, and really dig into why it would be an honor for us to have him become a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates," Huntington said.

How will the Pirates sell him on Pittsburgh? Huntington cited the Pirates' fan base, facilities, organizational vision, franchise history and "the city of Pittsburgh, as great as it is."

"We will absolutely do everything in our power to bring him here," Huntington said. "We'll continue to monitor the other markets, the trade and free-agent markets, and do everything in our power to get this club back to the postseason as consistently and frequently as possible."

Video: Sherman on how new MLB schedule will affect Ohtani

According to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, MLB owners will ratify the terms of a new posting system on Friday, at which point the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters can make Ohtani available to any Major League club willing to pay the $20 million posting fee to his former NPB team. Ohtani will have a 21-day window to select a team.

Ohtani may be drawn to a team coming off a winning season, unlike the Pirates, who have followed up three straight trips to the postseason with a pair of sub-.500 seasons. He may want to pitch and hit, making an American League club more appealing. He may prefer a larger market on either coast, like Seattle or New York. All of those factors would work against the Bucs.

But this process will not be dictated solely by who can spend the most, however, which gives the Pirates a chance. Ohtani is subject to international amateur signing rules, so clubs can only sign him to a Minor League contract using money from their international signing bonus pools.

The Rangers ($3.535 million), Yankees ($3.5 million) and Twins ($3.07 million) have the most to offer Ohtani, but the Pirates are next on the list with $2,266,750 remaining in their bonus pool.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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