Rangers quietly confident in Ohtani pursuit

December 4th, 2017

ARLINGTON -- Top Rangers officials officially met with pitcher Shohei Ohtani and his representatives on Tuesday in Los Angeles. They are also expressing quiet confidence inside the industry that they have a "good chance" of signing the Japanese pitching/hitting superstar.

The Rangers are also telling other clubs and agents they are likely holding off on pursuing any major acquisitions until Ohtani's situation is resolved. They are not commenting publicly and instead are totally focused on getting something done with Ohtani, possibly before the Winter Meetings begin on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

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The Rangers are one of seven teams who are expected to meet with Ohtani and his representatives this week, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram first reported. The other teams are the Mariners, Padres, Giants, Dodgers, Angels and Cubs. Of those seven teams, Texas currently has $3.535 million of international bonus-money room, but the competition is still stiff.

The final list of seven teams suggests Ohtani has a strong affinity for playing on the West Coast. The Rangers and the Cubs don't have that geographical advantage.

Texas has other selling points, including a history with Ohtani that dates back to when it tried to sign him out of high school. Assistant general manager Josh Boyd has led the charge along with Japanese scouts Joe Furukawa and Hajime Watabe. The club's Far East ties run deep.

The Rangers are in the American League, which would allow them to possibly use the designated hitter to indulge Ohtani's desire to bat as well as pitch. Clubs want Ohtani mainly because of his tremendous pitching ability, and there is still some doubt if he can do both in the big leagues. But Ohtani's desire to do so will likely be a main topic of discussion in any negotiation.

Texas has a new ballpark coming in 2020 and has shown the ability with to help Japanese players assimilate easily into the Major Leagues. The Rangers, despite a 78-84 record in 2017, have won four division titles in the past eight years and share a state-of-the-art Spring Training complex in Arizona with the Royals.

Texas also has an immediate opening for a starting pitcher. The Rangers are still looking for at least two starters in their rotation to join Cole Hamels, and Doug Fister. They can also leave the light on in case Ohtani signs with Texas and Darvish wants to return.

The other six finalists have plenty of selling points as well. Padres general manager A.J. Preller, who used to work for the Rangers, has his own history with Ohtani and Japanese ex-pitchers Hideo Nomo and Takishi Saito working in the front office. The Cubs call the newest Spring Training complex in Arizona home, and the Dodgers and Mariners both have their own history of positive experiences with Japanese players. The Padres, Dodgers and Mariners play in ballparks that are perceived to be favorable to pitchers.

The reality is nobody really knows what will be the final tipping points to get something done with Ohtani. All seven clubs -- with the possible exception of Seattle -- are likely to play this out as secretively as possible during the 21-day negotiating period.

The Rangers have certainly dug as far underground as possible while the process plays out. But it is still out there in the industry that they feel they have as good of chance -- maybe better -- as anybody in signing Ohtani. They have much riding on this.