The Shohei Ohtani saga took an unexpected twist this weekend as the Mariners, Giants, Padres, Angels, Rangers, Cubs and Dodgers were among the clubs with reason to remain optimistic, while the Yankees -- and about half of Major League Baseball's 30 teams -- had been told they are no longer in the running for the most intriguing free agent of the offseason.
Less than 48 hours after Ohtani was officially posted by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, his representatives at CAA began informing teams whether they would be given an opportunity to meet with the 23-year-old to make their pitch to the right-handed pitcher/left-handed slugger.
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Based on sources and published reports, the seven teams mentioned make up the group of finalists.
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To the surprise of many, the Yankees didn't make the initial cut, taking one of the perceived front-runners out of the Ohtani sweepstakes before it reaches its second stage.
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In addition to the Yanks, the following 13 teams had either stated publicly that they were out of the mix or had reportedly been informed they would not have an opportunity to meet with Ohtani: the A's, Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, D-backs, Mets, Nationals, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Twins and White Sox.
"When players are in the marketplace like that, you do everything you possibly can," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "We put forward everything that we were about, but if it's not a fit, it's not a fit. You move on. We're proud about what we've got going on here, the city and the fans we have. It's just not for everybody. I wish him the best of luck. He's an exciting young talent. Some fan base is going to be excited about it."
The status of the Astros, Indians, Marlins, Orioles, Phillies, Reds, Rockies, Royals and Tigers was still unknown, but none appears to fit the criteria Ohtani is seeking.
Interestingly, the Yankees, Twins and Pirates were three of the only four teams that can pay Ohtani $2 million or more, the other being the Rangers, whose available bonus pool of $3.535 million is the highest of any club.
The Mariners have $1,557,500 available in their bonus pool, while the Giants, Padres, Dodgers and Cubs can only pay Ohtani a $300,000 bonus.
All 30 teams are believed to have submitted the questionnaire that was requested by Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo. Among the items of interest to Ohtani were a team's evaluation of him as both a pitcher and hitter, the club's player development program, medical training and player-performance philosophy, team facilities both for Spring Training and the regular season, details of their home city and why their organization is the right fit for the two-way star.
Ohtani was officially posted on Friday, starting the 21-day clock for him to sign a deal with any team that agreed to pay the $20 million posting fee to the Fighters.
"We felt confident about our presentation," Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said. "We were given feedback by Shohei Ohtani's representation that we controlled everything within our power."
Based on Cashman's comments Sunday, it seems as though the West Coast teams in smaller markets may have the advantage, making Seattle and San Diego serious contenders for his services.
"I started getting a feel that wasn't good a few days ago," Cashman said. "I know that our presentation was excellent. The feedback from that was outstanding. I did get a sense that I can't change that we're a big market and I can't change that we're in the East. That was something that, presentation or not, might be difficult to overcome."
With Ohtani no longer an option to fill the empty slot in their rotation, the Yanks figure to turn their attention to bringing back Carsten Sabathia, who has stated his desire to return to the Bronx in 2018. As for the other teams that came up short in their bid for Ohtani, they could begin turning their attention toward other free-agent starters including Jacob Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, among others.