Shohei Ohtani, the Babe Ruth of Japan, has chosen to sign with the Angels. His agency announced the decision on Friday, marking the end of an unusual sweepstakes that involved virtually every team in baseball.
The coveted two-way star joins a roster that already includes arguably the best overall player in the game, Mike Trout, in addition to Albert Pujols. Ohtani figures to head up the starting rotation and could see time at designated hitter as he attempts to find success on both the mound and at the plate.
“This morning, after a thorough, detailed process, Shohei Ohtani has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels,” Nez Balelo, Ohtani’s agent with CAA, 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.”
The Angels had been among seven finalists. The list included the Padres, Giants, Rangers, Cubs, Padres and Mariners, who were especially aggressive in their pursuit.
“We are honored Shohei Otani has decided to join the Angels organization,” the Angels said in a statement on Twitter. “We felt a unique connectivity with him throughout the process and are excited he will become an Angel. This is a special time for Angels fans, the Ohtani family, and Nez Balelo and the team at Creative Artists Agency.”
Neither the Yankees nor Mets made the cut, nor did the Red Sox, with the belief emerging that Ohtani wanted to play somewhere on the West Coast.
“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,” Balelo said. “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.”
Ohtani’s baseball income was severely limited by baseball’s collective-bargaining agreement. As an international free agent, the most he could have been paid was the $3,557,500 the Mariners had available in their international signing pool.
With money less of a factor, Ohtani’s pool was expanded. Teams were asked to make proposals to Ohtani’s camp.
“We were resolved to having a fair, methodical process,” Balelo said in a statement. “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. 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.”
The Angels can offer a signing bonus of $2.3 million, but Ohtani will make only the league minimum of $545,000 in his first three years before he’s eligible for arbitration. The Angels also will pay a $20 million posting fee to the Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani’s Japanese club.
In five seasons with the Fighters, Ohtani, 23, had a .286/.358/.500 slash line and hit 48 home runs in 1,035 at-bats. He also posted a 42-15 record with a 2.52 ERA in 543 innings.