Padres move on after Ohtani picks Angels
SAN DIEGO -- Shohei Ohtani will play his home games in Southern California next season. Much to the chagrin of the San Diego Padres, he will not be doing so at Petco Park.
Ohtani, the two-way Japanese phenom who will begin his Major League career in 2018, announced through his agent on Friday morning that he will sign with the Angels.
The news leaves 29 teams on the outside looking in, but it stings particularly for the Padres. The 23-year-old Ohtani had a number of ties to the organization. And because he's younger than 25, Ohtani was subject to international signing restrictions, making him one of free agency's best bargains in recent memory.
A statement from Ohtani's agent Nez Balelo read: "Shohei is humbled and flattered by all the time and effort that so many teams put into their presentations, and he sincerely thanks them for their professionalism. In the end he felt a strong connection with the Angels and believes they can best help him reach his goals in Major League Baseball."
The Padres were one of seven finalists to sign Ohtani, and they were the last of the seven clubs to present to him, doing so Tuesday night. Throughout the process, little information became available regarding Ohtani's preferences.
Aside from landing in his top seven, it's unclear how seriously Ohtani considered San Diego. In the week leading up to his decision, many pointed out that former Japanese big leaguers Hideo Nomo and Takashi Saito work in the organization's front office. Seiichiro Nakagaki, currently the Padres' director of sports science, was Ohtani's trainer for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.
Those connections weren't enough to drive Ohtani's decision. Plus, the Padres were hamstrung in two areas as well. As a National League club, San Diego couldn't offer Ohtani -- who doubles as a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher and a power-hitting lefty batter -- a chance to serve as the designated hitter.
They also couldn't offer him more than $300,000 in a signing bonus, a penalty for exceeding their international signing limit in the 2016-17 period. The Angels, meanwhile, had nearly $3 million to offer Ohtani.
So what now?
The Padres remain confident in their current trajectory -- having built one of the Majors' best farm systems, with most of their big league talent under control for the next half-decade.
From here, it's simply a matter of developing those youngsters and adding the right pieces around them. The Padres have checked in with free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer already this offseason. They're likely to add two or three more starting pitchers and a shortstop.
Signing Ohtani might have put the Padres on the fast track to contention. But -- with or without him -- there's plenty of work left for general manager A.J. Preller this offseason.