Mariners shift to Plan B with Ohtani off market

Team still has talented prospects to consider with international pool money

December 8th, 2017

SEATTLE -- With Shohei Ohtani casting his lot with the American League West-rival Angels on Friday, the Mariners are left to turn to Plan B now that general manager Jerry Dipoto's primary offseason target is off the board.
Dipoto made a huge push for Ohtani, acquiring an extra $2.5 million in international bonus pool money in the past few weeks to sweeten what the Mariners could offer financially. Seattle was one of seven teams invited to meet with Ohtani and his representatives in Los Angeles this week, and many considered the Mariners a possible favorite, given their strong track record with Japanese players and ownership.
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So Ohtani's decision came as a gut punch Friday, with the 23-year-old choosing to align with Angels star on Dipoto's former Angels team, a club the Mariners finished two games behind in the AL West in 2017 and will face 19 times in the coming season.
The Mariners and Rangers both now have a total of about $3.5 million in international pool money that expires on June 15. Money from this year's pool can't be rolled over to next year, when a new flock of international free agents hits the market.
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That leaves the Mariners -- and others -- now with a lot of cash to pursue a few remaining international free agents, including Julio Pablo Martinez, a highly regarded Cuban outfielder who is expected to become available shortly. Martinez, 21, held an open workout for about 180 scouts in the Dominican Republic on Friday.
There are also seven of the 13 Braves international signees from this year still available after those players were put back on the market as part of Atlanta's punishment for international rules violations. Those players are eligible to be signed until Jan. 15.
The top Braves prospect, shortstop Kevin Maitan, reportedly has signed with the Angels for $2.2 million, which he'll receive on top of the $4.25 million owed from Atlanta. Another highly regarded youngster, catcher Abraham Gutierrez, signed with the Phillies for $550,000 after initially agreeing to a $3.5 million bonus with the Braves.

The highest-regarded Braves prospects still available are infielder Yunior Severino, who initially signed for $1.9 million with the Braves, right-handed pitcher Juan Contreras ($1.2 million) and shortstop Yenci Pena ($1.05 million).
Dipoto wasn't available for comment on Friday, but said earlier in the week -- prior to Ohtani's signing -- that the Mariners were intent on adding a pitcher and outfielder. They filled the outfield spot on Thursday by acquiring Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, who will be converted to center field.

Now the focus clearly shifts to pitching when the Mariners' executives travel to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for the four-day Winter Meetings that begin Monday.