Shohei Ohtani. This name has been a topic of discussion amongst baseball fans for years. If you haven’t heard it before, then let me give you a rundown so you are not totally in the dark.
Shohei Ohtani is widely regarded as the most sought-after free agent on the market and is often referred to as “The Japanese Babe Ruth”. Not only is Ohtani a right-handed stud pitcher with a 100+ MPH fastball and nasty offspeed stuff that can make even the best of hitters look foolish, but he also hits from the left side of the plate and can absolutely knock the cover off the ball.
Don’t take my word for it? Then I’ll let the statistics do the talking.
Ohtani battled injury in 2017, but it was nothing major and he finished his 2017 campaign with a .332 batting average with 16 doubles and 8 home runs in 65 games while making just 5 starts with a 3.20 ERA with a 3-2 win-loss record. In 2016, Ohtani turned some heads hitting a full line of .322/.416/.588, with 18 doubles, 22 homers, 67 RBI, 65 runs, along with 7 stolen bases in 382 plate appearances. His pitching was equally impressive. In 2016, Ohtani had a win-loss record of 10-4, with a 1.86 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 174 strikeouts, 45 walks, with 4 complete games and 1 shutout in 140 innings.
Now that that has been established, we can get down to business. Earlier this offseason, Major League Baseball ratified a new posting system with Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball which allowed Ohtani to go on the free agent market. Every MLB team and its fans prayed for an interview with Ohtani.
It had been a foregone conclusion that Ohtani would land with the Yankees before he even went on the market, but that is baseball for you and the Bronx Bombers were one of the first teams that Ohtani eliminated and we are now down to seven finalists. The finalists are the Anaheim Angels, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the San Francisco Giants.
Here are my rankings based off of where I believe Ohtani will wind up, where he will be best utilized, where he wants to go, and the best fit for him. So without further ado, here are my rankings.
7. San Diego Padres
To (hopefully) no one’s surprise, I have ranked the Padres dead last of the seven finalists. Anyone that thought, at any point in their entire life, that the Padres would even be one of the top 15 finalists for Shohei Ohtani, was probably under the influence of a great deal of alcohol. The Padres will be an obvious noncontender for at least the next three years and have very little to offer Ohtani. They are a National League team and will not be able to give Ohtani nearly as many at-bats as he desires, even if he does pitch every fifth day all season. While Ohtani would become an immediate star, I just can not see Ohtani an a Padres uniform.
6. Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs with Shohei Ohtani would be a force to be reckoned with. The 2016 World Series Champions would give Ohtani a postseason appearance and possibly a ring in 2018. Unfortunately for the Cubs, it is very unlikely that Ohtani will wind up in Chicago.
The Cubs are playing in the National League and if Ohtani wants to pitch and hit at the Major League level, the National League is not the place for him (unless he wants to pursue pitching alone, which he does not). The Cubs are also well known for being the lovable losers of baseball prior to 2015 and that is not a great sales pitch for any team. Ohtani will only be able to receive a $300,000 bonus for going to Chicago and despite Ohtani’s claims that money doesn’t matter, money talks.
5. San Francisco Giants
The Giants sent a plethora of alumni to meet with Ohtani, including catcher Buster Poesy in an attempt to win Ohtani over. Despite this, it is unlikely that Ohtani will wind up in San Francisco.
The Giants, like the Cubs, are a National League Ballclub which automatically puts them at a disadvantage in the Ohtani race. They also only have $300,000 to give as a signing bonus and like I said before, money talks. The Giants do have a hole in left field that Ohtani could play in on his nonpitching day, but the fact that he will be struggling for 300 at-bats every year for a team that had the second-worst record in all of Major League Baseball in 2017 may be the reason why Ohtani rules the Giants out. They are a West Coast team, which Ohtani obviously has favored, but the Giants are not a likely landing spot for the Japanese Babe Ruth.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have a long history of Japanese players including Nomo, Saito, Kaz Ishii, current Dodgers’ closer Kenta Maeda, and free agent Yu Darvish. The Dodgers also have a very large Japanese fan base. This could work for or against the Dodgers. If Ohtani wants to go somewhere where there has been a long history of Japanese players, then LA would certainly be a favorite. On the flip side, Ohtani has stated that he wants to create his own legacy which could mean that he wants to go to a team with little to no Japanese background.
The Dodgers are a star-studded team and were 5-runs short of a World Series title in 2017, but the Dodgers, despite being the best team on the west coast record-wise, are unlikely to land Ohtani due to their already gargantuan payroll and the inability to provide as many at-bats as Ohtani desires.
3. Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners are very similar to the Dodgers with Ohtani’s legacy as far as being Japanese. The Mariners were the team that took baseball legend Ichiro Suzuki and he would receive a large number of comparisons to the Future Hall of Famer and this may cause Ohtani to go elsewhere.
Despite this, the Mariners are in a far better position to land Ohtani than the Dodgers given the $2.557 million that Ohtani would undoubtedly receive from Seattle, along with the Mariners being an American League team, which would enable Ohtani to hit, pitch, and play the outfield and hit to his heart’s content. The Mariners would give him financial security and limitless opportunities.
2. Los Angeles Angels
Angels Fans, just think about it, Justin Upton, Mike Trout, and Shohei Ohtani and Kole Calhoun alternating in right field. If that is not an incredible outfield, then I don’t know what is.
The Angels were in the thick of the AL Wild Card Race in 2017 and Ohtani would make them an immediate playoff contender. The Halos would finally have an ace pitcher and two power bats to accompany Mike Trout. Ohtani would receive a plethora of advice from All-Stars Mike Trout and Justin Upton, along with Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. Ohtani would be able to hit and pitch as much as he wants and would have the longest tenured manager in the MLB to guide him through the bigs. He would also never receive comparisons to other Japanese Angels players as the Angels do not have a very long history with Japanese ball players.
Ohtani would automatically become the Angels ace and would be the key piece that the Angels need to be a contender. He would be playing in the American League, on the West Coast and would have a huge Japanese following. Simply, the Angels would give him an immediate opportunity to compete and he would be able to be one of the main contributors to their success. The Halos also have $2.315 million to give Ohtani as a signing bonus.
1. Texas Rangers
Speaking of signing bonuses…The Rangers have the most money of the seven ballclubs to give to Ohtani with a whopping $3.535 million in bonus money which would give him financial security. The Rangers follow Ohtani’s trend of picking West Coast teams and with the Rangers being an American League team, Ohtani could pitch and hit like he wants to.
The Rangers have a great pitching need, holes in the outfield, and need a DH, which could make Shohei Ohtani just what the Rangers need to get back into playoff contention. The mentoring of Adrian Beltre and Jeff Banister could be a selling point with Ohtani, as well as the fact that the Rangers were the team that first acquired Yu Darvish (Ohtani’s childhood hero) and Ohtani would be able to wear his hero’s number (something that he couldn’t do with the Angels, Giants, Dodgers, or Mariners). This, as I stated before, could also be a problem as it has been rumored that Ohtani wants to minimize comparisons to other Japanese ballplayers. Despite this, Texas seems like the most desirable place for Ohtani to wind up out of the seven teams (and that is coming from a die-hard Angels fan).
Also, who doesn’t want to pay no State Income tax?
There you have it. These are my rankings based off of where Ohtani wants to go, where he will be best utilized, and the best fit for him. Where do you think Ohtani will wind up? Where do you want him to go? I personally want to see Ohtani sporting an Angels Jersey when this is all said and done. Ohtani must make his decision before December 22nd.