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Ohtani recruitment spices up Hot Stove

Teams reportedly meeting with two-way star next week in LA
MLB.com

MLB owners unanimously ratified the Japanese posting agreement Friday, and the competition to woo two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani has ramped up. Ohtani has until Dec. 22 to sign with a Major League team after his Nippon Professional Baseball club, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, posted him Friday.

Hot Stove Tracker

MLB owners unanimously ratified the Japanese posting agreement Friday, and the competition to woo two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani has ramped up. Ohtani has until Dec. 22 to sign with a Major League team after his Nippon Professional Baseball club, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, posted him Friday.

Hot Stove Tracker

Since Ohtani, 23, is below the age of 25, he is subject to limitations placed on amateur players residing outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. That means he'll sign a Minor League contract with a club and make the MLB minimum salary of $545,000 upon being added to the big league roster. The $20 million posting fee, which goes to the Nippon-Ham Fighters, plus that MLB minimum salary is what it would cost a team to land him, making the market for him wide open.

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

Ohtani has scheduled meetings with MLB clubs for next week in Los Angeles, according to Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, who reports that the teams pursuing Ohtani are "pulling out all stops" to land him. As an example, the Mariners have asked multiple players to clear their schedules for next Tuesday through Friday for a potential trip to Los Angeles to meet with Ohtani.

The Yankees, Dodgers and Rangers appear to be the favorites to sign Ohtani, and Passan reports rival clubs in the Ohtani pursuit are concerned most about New York, because of the size and visibility of the market, as well as a longtime relationships between the Yankees and Ohtani's agency, CAA.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman commented on the club's interest in Ohtani for the first time Friday.

"It's a big stage here and it's meant to have the best talent to play on it," Cashman said. "Ohtani represents the next great talent that is available in the world of baseball. This stage is made for players like this, and that's why we are certainly going to be aggressive in this process."

Video: Young manager Boone can help Yankees land Ohtani

Ohtani's preferences, however, remain largely a mystery. MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported Friday that, according to multiple MLB team executives, Ohtani may prefer to play for a club that doesn't already have an established Japanese star, though Ohtani's representatives haven't commented on that.

According to ESPN's Buster Olney, an MLB evaluator who has long followed Ohtani and has a good understanding of the player, doesn't have any idea as to where he might sign. Passan notes that some clubs feel as though "they're flying blind" and others are more confident in what Ohtani is looking for.

Video: Morosi discusses latest Ohtani rumors, preferences

Ohtani, who likely would have received a nine-figure contract if he had waited to join MLB once he turned 25, sent a questionnaire through his agency to all 30 MLB clubs.. It reportedly included a request for answers in English and Japanese on why each club would be a good fit for Ohtani, making reference to evaluations of him as a pitcher and hitter and a sales pitch for the team's city.

While the amount of money a club can offer by way of its international bonus pool funds isn't likely high on Ohtani's priority list, the clubs with the most to offer are the Rangers ($3.535 million), Yankees ($3.5 million) and Twins ($3.245 million).

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.