LA Angels fend off a host of MLB rivals to land prized two-way superstar.
‘He felt a strong connection with the Angels,’ says 23-year-old’s agent.
The Los Angeles Angels have landed the most coveted free agent in baseball, Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani.
The 23-year-old, dubbed ‘Japan’s Babe Ruth’, has been highly coveted by Major League Baseball clubs due to his rare two-way skills – his fastball has reached over 100mph and powerful left-handed swing allows him to play in the line-up when he is not pitching.
Ohtani was coveted by every team because of his exceptional skills but also because he represents an extraordinary bargain due to baseball’s rules around international players. The Angels will have to pay the $20m posting fee to Ohtani’s previous club, the Nippon Ham Fighters, but he will not be paid a huge salary. Ohtani, who will join two-time MVP Mike Trout, will sign a minor league contract and can receive up to $2.3m in international bonus money.
“This morning, after a thorough, detailed process, Shohei Otani has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels,” Nez Balelo, the co-head of Otani’s agency CAA Baseball, said in a statement. “Shohei is humbled and flattered by all the time and effort that so many teams put into their presentations and 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.
“I want to thank the clubs and everyone else for respecting our intent to make this very important process as private as possible. We were resolved to having a fair, methodical process. Teams clearly put in a lot of work, and we are grateful for that. The past few weeks also further demonstrated Shohei’s incredible thoughtfulness, attention to detail and determination to make an informed decision.
— MLB (@MLB) December 8, 2017
“He read every page of every presentation and listened to every word in each meeting, and he was so impressed that it was not an easy choice. While there has been much speculation about what would drive Shohei’s decision, what mattered to him most wasn’t market size, time zone or league but that he felt a true bond with the Angels. He sees this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his career goals.
“More than ever, I believe this is not only a special talent but a man of special character, and like everyone else I’m excited to see him in Major League Baseball.”
The Angels are coming off their second consecutive losing season and haven’t won a play-off game since 2009, but their combination of a promising young core and a beautiful West Coast location clearly appealed to Ohtani.