Shohei Ohtani is about to become the most pursued free agent in baseball. After Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and Nippon Professional Baseball came to an agreement on a new posting system, the Japanese superstar could be posted by Dec. 1 and signed by the end of the year.
All 30 teams are expected to inquire on Ohtani. Because the new CBA limits international free agents under 25 years old to signing minor league deals, and because spending on such players is limited, the maximum bonus Ohtani can receive is $3.535 million from the Texas Rangers. That means his signing won’t be about the money as much as it is opportunity. And the main opportunity Ohtani is reportedly looking for is the chance to continue as a two-way player.
We haven’t heard much from teams on whether they’ll be willing to allow Ohtani to continue pitching or hitting, or if they’d prefer to focus on one over the other. But let there be no doubt where the Seattle Mariners stand.
On the team’s new weekly podcast with club broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto clearly stated his willingness to let Ohtani do both. In fact, Dipoto said the team would be willing to use usual designated hitter Nelson Cruz in the outfield if it meant freeing up time for Ohtani to hit. Here’s more from MLB.com:
In the wide-ranging podcast, Dipoto said the club would be willing to play designated hitter Nelson Cruz in the outfield several times a week to open a spot for Ohtani to hit next season if he signed with the Mariners. Dipoto acknowledged last week’s trade of hard-throwing relief prospect Thyago Vieira to the White Sox for international bonus money was made largely with the goal of accumulating more money to compete for the Japanese star.
Dipoto is clearly going all in to land Ohtani. The always active general manager has already made three trades this winter, and will gladly make more if it opens up more money and more opportunity.
The Mariners have $1.55 million in international bonus money now available, which is below the $3.5 million of the Yankees and Rangers, but more than the vast majority of Major League teams. Dipoto noted Ohtani seems motivated by more than just cash, but said he’ll continue pursuing every avenue possible, including further trades for slot money.
“We’re not going to leave a stone unturned in the efforts to do it again if the opportunity arises,” Dipoto said. “We’ll be responsible in how we do it, but we understand this is a one-time buying opportunity and you have to be prepared.
“To me, the worst thing we can be is sitting on the sideline being too conservative, sitting on our hands when an opportunity to change the history of the organization comes along. Because this is what this might be.”
With the Ohtani sweepstakes about to take off, it will be interesting to see how aggressive Dipoto gets and how willing other general managers will be to share their plans to pursue Ohtani.
Dipoto’s honesty is nice to hear. It might also put more pressure on him to close the deal, seeing as he’s admittedly been moving assets for a player he’s not guaranteed to land. Who knows, it could be a make or break moment for him as GM. If he doesn’t get Ohtani and the Mariners long postseason drought is extended in 2018, that might be difficult to overlook when it’s time to evaluate his position. .
That’s a conversation for later. For now, at least know the Mariners will be putting on a full-court press once Shohei Ohtani is posting.
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