With Shohei Ohtani having been posted on Friday, it didn’t take him long to whittle down the list of prospective teams. On Sunday, word broke that at least half the teams in baseball had been, for lack of a better term, eliminated from acquiring his services.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 4, 2017
The biggest surprise, to some, might be the fact the Padres are finalists for Ohtani’s services. But not this weblogger.
Padres gonna be strong contenders for Otani. https://t.co/q2bZDy6r5J
— Dustin Nosler (@DustinNosler) January 30, 2016
Seems like the Padres are gearing up to go pretty hard in Japan the next few years. Just ahead of Shohei Otani's projected arrival.
— Dustin Nosler (@DustinNosler) February 11, 2016
And it’s backed up by former Padres’ blogger.
Preller attempted to sign #Ohtani as an 18 year old. As did Logan White, while he was with the Dodgers. Preller was instrumental in signing Yu Darvish with Texas. #Padres have his [Ohtani] former trainer, Nomo & Saito in their FO. Connections seem endless.
— Mickey Koke (@mickeykoke) December 4, 2017
The biggest reason for the Padres’ involvement is, presumably, Logan White. He was the Dodgers’ vice president of amateur scouting when he went to Japan and tried to sign Ohtani out of high school. Couple that with the information in Koke’s tweet and it’s easy to see why the Padres are serious contenders. Despite averaging 73 wins for the last seven seasons, the Padres do have a bright future, as their farm system is stacked and they have some interesting young talent.
The Mariners also seem to be the Dodgers’ main competition in the Ohtani sweepstakes. He makes perfect sense for them, and they seem to be awfully serious about trying to land the phenom.
Sources: The Seattle Mariners have asked multiple players to clear their schedules from Tuesday through Friday next week to potentially come to Los Angeles for a meeting with Shohei Ohtani.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 2, 2017
They also can offer Ohtani $1.2 million more than either the Dodgers or Padres, but odds are $1.2 million won’t be the determining factor in this situation.
The Angels are an interesting team because they have the game’s best player and don’t seem that far away from being a legitimate contender. They can also offer him in the neighborhood of $1-1.5 million as a signing bonus.
The Giants are pesky, but I just don’t see how they will check all the boxes of Ohtani’s questionnaire. If they land Giancarlo Stanton, that might improve their chances at landing Ohtani, but they might lose some key players and/or prospects in that deal. They can offer him $1.835 million.
The Rangers are the team that can offer Ohtani the most ($3.53 million) and have a history with importing players from Nippon Professional Baseball, most notably with Yu Darvish. They also have a solid core and a decent farm system, but they aren’t exactly the preferred West Coast.
The Cubs are also not on the West Coast, but they won the World Series in 2016 and have a strong, young nucleus that is, admittedly, a little short on up-and-coming prospects. They’re under the same financial constraints the Dodgers and Padres are ($300,000).
Ohtani, reportedly, wants to sign in a smallish media market and on the West Coast. At least, that’s what Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman said when he told reporters the Yankees were out on Ohtani. Odds are that, isn’t 100 percent accurate, but let’s run with it for a moment.
If true, that would seemingly take the Dodgers out of the running, but they’ve been after Ohtani for almost a decade and have built a solid rapport with him. It just seemed more like he didn’t want to play in the New York or Boston media markets — the two most notorious markets in baseball.
Let’s look at how the Dodgers would fare in Ohtani’s questionnaire.
An evaluation of Shohei’s talent as a pitcher and/or a hitter
- We already know the Dodgers (and everyone else) view Ohtani as having ace potential. They also seem keen on letting him hit, and they’re usually at the forefront of the “next big thing” in baseball.
Player development, medical, training, and player performance philosophies and capabilities
- The Dodgers have developed a lot of premium players in recent years (Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Julio Urias) with more on the way (Walker Buehler, Keibert Ruiz, Alex Verdugo).
- Medical, well, I’ll refer you to this. It’s not as bad as it seems on the surface (he said unconvincingly).
- Player performance? Well, the Dodgers had five All-Stars this past season and also had four position players post a WAR of 4 or better with six pitchers having a WAR of 2 or better.
- The front office seems to put its players in the best position to thrive. Platoons are used liberally, and most starting pitchers don’t get to face the lineup a third time through. That might change for Ohtani — and the Dodgers are nothing if not adaptable — as long as he proves he can be effective.
Major league, minor league, and Spring Training facilities
- Dodger Stadium, despite being the third-oldest park in baseball, is still one of the best.
- The Triple-A and Double-A facilities are top-notch, while High-A and Low-A are solid parks (not that he’ll ever have to spend significant time there).
- Camelback Ranch is one of the best Spring Training facilities in the Cactus League, even if it is lacking trees/shade.
Resources for Shohei’s cultural assimilation
- The Dodgers have virtually unlimited resources. They also have folks in the organization who speak Japanese fluently. Basically, anything he wants/needs, he’ll get.
- The clubhouse culture has improved in recent years, so him coming into a diverse, fun, cohesive clubhouse could only be a good thing.
- Los Angeles has one of the country’s largest Japanese populations.
A detailed plan for integrating Shohei into the organization
- If there’s something this front office is, it’s incredibly detailed.
- Odds are he’ll start a couple times a week in the field (second and third day after his previous start) and pinch-hit for the pitcher in every other game he doesn’t start. That should give him plenty of plate appearances without overexposing him, and should help minimize the risk of injury.
Why the city and franchise are a desirable place to play
- Los Angeles
- 2017 National League Champions
- One victory away from World Series title
- Draws 3+ million fans per season
- One of the top franchises in any sport
Relevant marketplace characteristics
- Second-largest media market, but not on the level of scrutiny of a New York or Boston.
- MLB’s second-most valuable organization ($2.75 billion).
- Endorsements could be had at a moment’s notice, should he want them.
Ultimately, the Dodgers still seem like the best landing spot for him. They check all the boxes above, without question.
If I had to handicap it, I’d go as follows:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Francisco
Ohtani has until Dec. 22 to decide where he’ll sign. This is going to be a long 18 days.