Shohei Ohtani Spurns the Yankees, Seeking a Smaller Market

Shohei Ohtani Spurns the Yankees, Seeking a Smaller Market


Similarly, Dave Dombrowski, the general manager of the Boston Red Sox, told the Boston Globe on Sunday that he, too, had been informed that Ohtani would not sign in Boston. The Mets were also informed on Sunday that they were out of the running for Ohtani.

Teams that have shown interest in Ohtani were asked by his representatives to make presentations in English and Japanese, and the Yankees had fulfilled that request. But it was not enough.

The last superstar the Yankees signed from Japan was Masahiro Tanaka, who agreed to a seven-year, $155 million contract before the 2014 season. The Yankees also had to pay a $20 million posting fee to his former team in Japan.

But new rules for signing international players have curtailed the Yankees’ financial advantage. Because Ohtani is only 23, with just five years of professional experience, he is subject to baseball’s international bonus pool system, which limits him to a bonus of around $3.5 million and a rookie contract at the major league minimum of $545,000 next season.

That is part of what makes Ohtani intriguing to so many clubs. The team that signs him must pay $20 million to his Japanese team, the Nippon-Ham Fighters. But the relatively low cost for a potential two-way superstar — with six years of club control — makes Ohtani a consideration for nearly every team, though only American League teams could offer him the opportunity for regular work as a designated hitter.

Ohtani has earned a reputation as the Babe Ruth of Japan — not because of his power, but because he can both pitch and hit, as Ruth once did. Ohtani hit .322 with 22 home runs in 104 games in 2016 and his career slugging percentage is .500. As a pitcher, he is 42-15 with a 2.52 E.R.A. and 624 strikeouts in 543 innings.

At least on the surface, the Yankees had seemed like a potential landing spot for Ohtani, considering their success with Japanese stars like Hideki Matsui, Hiroki Kuroda and Tanaka; their status as a perennial winner; and the marketing potential for a prominent New York athlete.

But after years of not knowing Ohtani’s preferences, it is only now coming to the surface that he is apparently not interested in the big-market, East Coast teams.

Two A.L. teams that could clearly use Ohtani — and fit the description of a smaller, West Coast market on the West Coast — are the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels, who play in Anaheim, Calif. Both finished far behind the World Series champion Houston Astros in the A.L. West but want desperately to win while their best players — the Mariners’ Robinson Cano and the Angels’ Mike Trout — are still in their primes.

The Mariners have a long history of Japanese stars, and when the Angels acquired more than $1 million in international bonus money last week in a trade with the Atlanta Braves, General Manager Billy Eppler said he would apply it to a pursuit of Ohtani.

The Mariners and the Angels already have veteran designated hitters (Nelson Cruz for Seattle, Albert Pujols for the Angels), which could complicate their pitch to Ohtani.

If Ohtani does choose a team on the West Coast, it would make it easier for his family, friends and even fans from Japan to fly over for weekend visits. When Hideo Nomo pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Ichiro Suzuki played for the Seattle Mariners, fans would make the trip to see the stars match their skills against the best in the world. Soon, it will be Ohtani’s turn.



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