Shohei Ohtani Reportedly Wants to Sign with MLB Team with No Japanese Stars

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2017

Japan's Shohei Ohtani follows a double in the seventh inning during the international friendly baseball match between Japan and the Netherlands at the Tokyo Dome on November 13, 2016. / AFP / KAZUHIRO NOGI        (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
KAZUHIRO NOGI/Getty Images

Japanese baseball phenom Shohei Ohtani may prefer to sign with an MLB team that doesn't already have another Japanese star on its roster, according to a new report.

Per MLB Network's Jon Morosi, multiple team executives say they believe Ohtani may want to stand alone in that regard, although his camp has not commented on the matter.

According to Morosi, Ohtani's teammate in Japan, Brandon Laird, suggested the report could be true by saying, "I feel like he just wants to come and not be compared to other guys who have already been here—to start fresh on his own, show what he can do by himself."

Ohtani is free to sign with an MLB team this offseason after a posting agreement was reached by MLB, the MLB Players Association and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization in Japan, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

The 23-year-old Ohtani is widely regarded as the Japanese Babe Ruth due to his excellence both as a pitcher and a hitter.

Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo, said in November that Ohtani wants to play both ways in Major League Baseball, according to NPB on Reddit (h/t Mike Axisa of CBS Sports).

Last season, Ohtani hit .332 with eight home runs and 31 RBI in 202 at-bats, while going 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 25.1 innings pitched for the Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Ohtani played far more the previous season and produced a .322 batting average and 22 homers in 323 at-bats, as well as a 10-4 pitching record with a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings.

It stands to reason that all 30 MLB teams have interest in a talent as rare as Ohtani, but if the report regarding his desire to be a standalone Japanese star is true, it could limit his options.

Most notably, the team that signs pitcher Yu Darvish in free agency may lose the Ohtani sweepstakes, while the New York Yankees could also be out of the running with pitcher Masahiro Tanaka already on the roster.

On Friday, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters the Yanks are all-in on Ohtani and that they will allow him to play both ways if they sign him.

While Major League Baseball has featured many superstars from Japan over the years, the uniqueness of Ohtani makes him a candidate to eclipse all of them regardless of whether he has a Japanese star alongside him.

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