“It was sad because it was the east,” NYY general manager Ohtani said, “Western obsession,” and “Winner’s record without fail.” Famous U.S. reporter
ESPN reported on Wednesday (Nov. 12) that “Ohtani’s free agency is unlikely to last long. Numerous general managers who spoke with ESPN last week said they got the feeling he’ll make a decision sooner than expected,” and that it could be finalized before the Winter Meetings end early next month.
With the bidding war for free agent slugger Shohei Ohtani in full swing, the general managers who attended last week’s Major League Baseball general managers’ meetings are expecting a “megaton” deal to be signed at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, next month from May 5-7.
While more than a dozen teams are expected to enter the fray, it’s clear that Ohtani hasn’t been dithering for long. Will he stay in the West Coast, his preferred destination, or will he sign with an East Coast team that hasn’t been mentioned much?
Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, left, poses with general manager Perry Minasian and manager Phil Nevin during the team MVP award ceremony before a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics in Los Angeles, California, on Oct. 1. AP
▶Six years ago?
When Ohtani pursued a major league career through the posting process in December 2017, six of his seven finalists were from the West Coast.
They were the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, and Texas Rangers. The other team was the Chicago Cubs of the National League Central.
At the time, Ohtani’s main criteria for choosing a team was how much they would give him the opportunity to bat. The Angels were the first team to offer him the opportunity to bat on both days he started and days he didn’t. The NL didn’t have a designated hitter system at the time, so the Dodgers, San Diego, and San Francisco didn’t make the cut.
The Yankees were overlooked because they were on the East Coast
The next criterion was to be geographically located on the West Coast. They had to be close to Japan. They didn’t even consider teams in the East, and they didn’t want a big-market team with a lot of fans. It’s unclear exactly why Ohtani wanted to play for a small-market team, but it’s believed that he wanted an “environment” where he could pursue his two-hitting career without the pressure of team performance.
Not only did the Angels have a “do what you want” attitude toward the two-hitter, but they also had the advantage of being in the West and having a relatively small market compared to the Dodgers, Yankees, and San Francisco.굿모닝토토 주소
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who was in the mix for Ohtani at the time, says, “His agent said he really liked our presentation. But no matter how good it was, the Yankees were not a West Coast team, not a small-market team.”
Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes is interviewed during a meeting of Major League Baseball general managers in Los Angeles, California, Monday, Nov. 9, 2018. AP
The West Coast would have been better…
Six years later, has Ohtani’s criteria for choosing a team changed? It’s a moot point, as he’s shown over the past three years that he’s a two-hit wonder that no team can afford not to have.
However, his preference for the West Coast may not have changed much, according to those close to him. As MLB.com reported on Nov. 11, “If Ohtani doesn’t re-sign with the Angels, it hurts the Angels wherever he goes. It would hurt even more if he signed with the AL West rivals Mariners or Rangers, or their Southern California counterparts, the Dodgers or Padres,” adding, “Those four teams were among the seven finalists in 2017. They could be among the favorites again. Again, the West is favored.
Also, the size of the territory, or simply the size of the market, is no longer a concern for Ohtani. It’s all about being able to compete for a championship. Ohtani hasn’t played in the postseason since entering the major leagues. The last time the Angels played fall baseball was in 2014. Ohtani made his major league debut in 2018.
“You have to have a good chance of winning”
The Angels went 73-89 this season, good for fourth place in the AL West. It’s not the first time in the past year or two that Ohtani has been disappointed with the Angels. In an interview at the All-Star Game in July, Ohtani said, “My desire to play for a winning team is getting stronger every year. Losing is really annoying. I want to win, and that feeling gets stronger every year.”
In fact, even if you want the West, geography and market size have become secondary issues. Only teams with a winning record are eligible to compete for Ohtani, and it’s been said by some in the organization that “it doesn’t matter to him what district you’re from.”
As New York Post columnist John Heyman said on MLB Network on Wednesday, “It’s become clear that winning will trump everything in the Ohtani free agency process. Money is not a priority. It’s about having the best chance of getting to the World Series.” In other words, under similar circumstances, he would choose the team with the best chance of winning, even if it meant less money.
Heyman continued, “I believe the Texas Rangers have the best chance of landing Ohtani. “Winning is a big factor,” he said, “as are the Dodgers and Mariners. The Giants are not on a winning path. The Dodgers may be on the Ohtani list, but suddenly there are a lot of questions about their long-term pitching strength.”
Texas defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks to win the franchise’s first World Series title, which concluded two days ago. Heyman argues that this is a team that will remain a championship contender for the foreseeable future, not just next year. On the other hand, the Dodgers, who are considered the most likely destination for Ohtani, have a weak pitching staff.