There was surprise. There was disappointment. There was time and creativity invested that did not pan out. In their bid to sign Japanese two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, the Yankees were not chosen as one of the final seven major-league teams that he is considering.
However, there is neither regret nor lamenting about it.
“It was kind of surprising, but I’m a great believer that if somebody doesn’t want to play here then it’s better that he doesn’t play here,” Yankees president Randy Levine said on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium following a news conference during which he welcomed representatives from the two schools — Iowa and Boston College — that will play in the Dec. 27 Pinstripe Bowl. “We’re disappointed he didn’t come here because we think this would have been a great opportunity for him.”
Ohtani, posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters so he can play this coming season in North America, received presentations from MLB suitors. The Yankees — as well as the Red Sox and Mets — knew on Sunday that they had been eliminated from consideration.
Ohtani, who is both a righthanded pitcher with a fastball that tops 100 mph and a lefthanded power hitter, has agreed to meet with five West Coast clubs — the Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Padres and Mariners — as well as the Cubs and Rangers. Levine indicated the Yankees saw nothing to indicate a left-coast preference.
“I really thought we had an opportunity. Brian Cashman and his team put together an incredible, incredible presentation,” Levine said. “They worked a long time to get it done and I think it was up to the individual to make a decision on where he wants to spend his life and we respect that.”
Levine said the Yankees’ proposal included a framework where Ohtani would pitch in the starting rotation and be in the batting order between starts.
Coming up empty on Ohtani was always a possibility and the Yankees are not seeing it as a setback. And Levine indicated that Cashman has been looking at a number of routes he could take to improve a club that was one win away from reaching the 2017 World Series.
“Everything is not built around one player and so they have many other plans,” he said. “I am sure that they’re, as we speak, executing them now.”
Adding to a rotation that currently includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery appears to be a priority. The Yankees could seek to bring back CC Sabathia, who was 14-5 last season, but Levine said it’s too early to have an update on whether the Yankees will pursue that.
“It’s the Yankees; we always want to get better. But we have a great team — one game from being in the World Series,” Levine said. “We have tremendous talent on the major-league roster. We have tremendous talent in the minor leagues . . . I am sure there’s going to be improvements to the team.
“Ohtani would have been great here, but he’s not the only player in the world.”