Each MLB Team's Best Sales Pitch to Recruit 2-Way Phenom Shohei OhtaniNovember 28, 2017
Each MLB Team's Best Sales Pitch to Recruit 2-Way Phenom Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani is the baseball equivalent of a unicorn.
He can unleash 100 mph fastballs and filthy breaking pitches on the mound, and then he'll step into the batter's box and launch home runs.
The Japanese phenom is also still just 23 years old.
Ohtani has a chance to develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter in short order, and while his eventual offensive contributions remain a mystery, he didn't hit .326 with a .981 OPS and 30 home runs in 613 plate appearances the past two seasons by accident.
That not only makes him one of the most coveted players to ever hit the open market, but it also means he's subject to international bonus restrictions.
B/R's Jacob Shafer broke down the nuances if you're interested in that information, but suffice to say it's a unique situation that essentially boils down to all 30 teams starting on a fairly even playing field when it comes to vying for his services.
Ohtani has asked interested teams to submit written proposals on how he would fit into the organization in preparation for his likely posting this coming Friday or Saturday.
With that in mind, we've put together a slam-dunk recruiting pitch for each of the 30 MLB franchises to use in its recruitment of this potentially transcendent talent.
The Pitch: "We're a World Series contender, and you'd have the chance to hone your two-way game alongside one of the game's best pitchers and one of the game's best hitters."
The Diamondbacks won 93 games last season, and aside from one notable exception—slugger J.D. Martinez, who is likely headed for greener pastures—the core of the roster will return intact.
Adding Ohtani to a starting rotation that ranked third in the majors with a 3.61 ERA and already features the likes of Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker and Zack Godley would give them a staff that stacks up to any in baseball.
And while Ohtani wouldn't be afforded as many opportunities to showcase his offensive game, picking Paul Goldschmidt's brain would be a nice perk.
After all, it didn't take long for Goldschmidt and Martinez to strike up a strong working relationship in their short time together.
The Pitch: "We're building something special, and you're the missing piece."
The Braves finished the season with B/R's No. 1-ranked farm system, and they've already had young guys like Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Sean Newcomb, Lucas Sims, Luiz Gohara and Max Fried arrive in the majors, while uber-prospect Ronald Acuna is knocking on the door.
Newcomb, Gohara and Sims are projected to join Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz in the starting rotation in 2018, while the farm system features top-100 pitching prospects Kolby Allard (21), Kyle Wright (30), Mike Soroka (33), Ian Anderson (50) and Joey Wentz (94).
There's a ton of potential in that group but not a sure-fire future ace.
Ohtani would give Atlanta a frontline starter to build its rotation around, and it's not off-base to think he's the missing piece for this organization. It just might take a couple of years for it to get to the promised land.
The Pitch: "We've made the playoffs three times in the past six years without anything close to a frontline starter. Think of what we could accomplish with you anchoring the staff."
Starting pitching was far from a strength for the Orioles when they reached the postseason in 2012, 2014 and 2016, as you can see:
- 2012: 4.42 SP ERA (21st in MLB), Top SP: Wei-Yin Chen (12-11, 4.02 ERA)
- 2014: 3.61 SP ERA (12th in MLB), Top SP: Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34 ERA)
- 2016: 4.72 SP ERA (24th in MLB), Top SP: Kevin Gausman (9-12, 3.61 ERA)
As it stands, the 2018 staff will feature Gausman, Dylan Bundy and a whole lot of question marks.
With the front office showing no indication it's open to moving Manny Machado ahead of his final year under team control, it looks like the O's will be pushing to contend again. Adding Ohtani—along with a couple of mid-level starters—would put them right back in the mix.
And if Mark Trumbo (.289 OBP, .686 OPS) struggles like he did last season, there could be plenty of DH at-bats available as well.
Boston Red Sox
The Pitch: "Remember Dice-K Mania? And that guy couldn't even hit the ball out of the infield."
So far, it doesn't sound like Ohtani throws a gyroball.
But that wouldn't stop his arrival from approaching and likely surpassing the fervor that swept Boston when Daisuke Matsuzaka joined the Red Sox in 2007.
If Ohtani is looking to capitalize on marketing opportunities to offset what will be a relatively low salary, Boston would be as good a place as any to do that, with a huge market of some of the game's most ravenous fans.
He'd also be a great fit for the Red Sox on more than one level.
With Rick Porcello taking a massive step backward and David Price struggling to stay healthy, the rotation was shaky behind ace Chris Sale and left-hander Drew Pomeranz.
The team also suffered a severe power outage following the retirement of David Ortiz—dropping from ninth (208) to 27th (168) in the majors in home runs—so adding another power bat to the mix would be a welcome bonus.
The Pitch: "We'll be the best team in baseball in 2018 and the immediate future with you on board. Joe Maddon will know how to maximize your unique skill set—even in the National League."
More than a few teams would have something to say about that first statement, but there's no denying the Cubs are stacked. Replacing Jake Arrieta with Ohtani means the rotation wouldn't miss a beat.
It'd also change the complexion of the offseason.
Rather than gearing up to sign someone like Alex Cobb to a five-year deal in the $75 million neighborhood, the Chicago front office could turn its full attention to the bullpen.
Re-signing closer Wade Davis would be a no-brainer, and the team could also target a couple of other high-leverage relievers to round out the pen.
Think Brandon Morrow and Mike Minor, for example.
And remember Travis Wood's playing left field in 2016?
Maddon is as creative as any manager in the game. If Ohtani prefers to debut in the pitcher-friendly NL, there's not a better place to showcase his two-way skills.
Chicago White Sox
The Pitch: "Come join the game's most promising rebuild. And hey, if you can throw harder than Michael Kopech, we'll give everyone you know season tickets."
What competitor doesn't respond to a good old-fashioned skills challenge?
Kopech has been clocked at 105 mph, and he regularly operates in the triple digits, so Ohtani would be the underdog. He's no stranger to 100 mph-plus fastballs himself, though.
Bigger picture, the South Side is an attractive landing spot for Ohtani if he wants to be part of building something as opposed to just latching on to a contender.
The White Sox had the No. 2 farm system in B/R's year-end rankings even after graduating Yoan Moncada to the majors. Ohtani would provide another young cornerstone piece with superstar upside.
In the short-term, he'd surely offer a welcome boost in fan interest for a team that ranked 28th in average attendance in 2017 at just 20,117.
The White Sox landed touted Cuban outfielder Luis Robert with a $26 million bonus in May, so they shouldn't be overlooked as players on the international market.
The Pitch: "You and fellow two-way phenom Hunter Greene could form a dynamic duo the likes of which the game has never seen."
A 70-grade fastball and 55-grade slider on the mound and a 50-grade hit tool with 55-grade power at the plate.
No, we're not talking about Ohtani this time.
Those are the pre-draft grades MLB.com gave Hunter Greene after he starred as a pitcher and shortstop at Notre Dame High School in California and the Reds happily scooped him up with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft.
Like they do about Ohtani, most agree Greene's future is on the mound, but that didn't stop Cincinnati from trotting out Greene as a designated hitter in his pro debut.
Could the Reds ask the charismatic Greene to take on a key role in recruiting Ohtani?
It's fun to envision those two serving as co-aces while arguing about who gets to pinch hit and battling for the Silver Slugger Award.
The Pitch: "You wouldn't need to be a savior here—just another piece of the puzzle on a team with title aspirations. The cross-promotional opportunities with LeBron James would be pretty cool, too."
Ohtani would be asked to step into the role of staff ace on a lot of teams.
The Indians are not one of those teams.
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber is the unquestioned leader of the staff, and the underrated Carlos Carrasco is a frontline starter in his own right, so Ohtani could slide into more of a low-pressure spot as the No. 3 guy on the staff—at least to start the year.
After following up an American League pennant with a 102-win season, Cleveland will return a more or less intact roster that will make it one of the favorites in 2018.
Then there's the LeBron angle.
Cleveland isn't a huge market, with a population that ranked 51st in the United States in 2016, but it's become one of the focal points of the sports world thanks to LeBron. That should afford Ohtani plenty of endorsement opportunities.
The Pitch: "Pitching in Coors Field is the ultimate challenge, and you have the stuff to conquer it. We're one elite arm away from contending for our first World Series title."
On the strength of a 12-win improvement from 2016, the Rockies posted their first winning season since 2010 and earned a spot in the NL Wild Card Game in 2017.
The biggest reason for that turnaround was a jump from 27th (4.91) to 17th (4.51) in team ERA, and there's still plenty of room for improvement.
Rookies German Marquez, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela filled significant roles, and Jon Gray is just scratching the surface as a 26-year-old with ace upside.
If Ohtani is looking for a challenge, it doesn't get much bigger than Coors Field.
Colorado has the pieces to be in the thick of things in the NL again. The addition of Ohtani might be enough for it to be considered a contender for the NL crown.
The Pitch: "Yes, we're rebuilding, but with you on board and the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, things will get back on track quickly. You'd be the center of it all."
Admittedly, Detroit is not the most appealing destination right now.
The Tigers just began the rebuilding process, and there's still work to do to build up a farm system that checked in at No. 17 in B/R's final rankings. If Ohtani signed on, it would mean committing to what could be a lengthy process.
That process, however, could be expedited if the team trades Michael Fulmer for a substantial return and then lands the nation's top talent—University of Florida right-hander Brady Singer in some circles—with the No. 1 overall pick in June.
With Miguel Cabrera entering his age-35 season and coming off a down year (92 OPS+, 16 HR), there's a changing of the guard coming, and the organization needs a new face of the franchise.
Ohtani would be that guy as the ace of the staff, and he'd also be one Victor Martinez injury away from seeing all the DH duty he could handle.
The Pitch: "We're the defending World Series champs, and we're in a great position to repeat. With you in the mix, we'd be nothing short of a juggernaut. There's even an opening at DH after Carlos Beltran retired."
There's probably not a team that's better positioned for 2018 than the Astros, who will have all their key pieces back for another year.
A full season of Justin Verlander, healthy seasons from Dallas Keuchel (23 GS) and Lance McCullers Jr. (22 GS) and more of the same from Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock would already give the Astros one of the best rotations in baseball.
Adding Ohtani to that group would make it borderline unfair.
As for the offensive side of things, the versatility of Marwin Gonzalez affords manager A.J. Hinch plenty of flexibility when it comes to filling out his lineup card. Ohtani would be another unique weapon.
Fear of stretching him too thin would keep Houston from using him as a full-time DH between starts, but it shouldn't be out of the question for Ohtani to absorb half of the 509 plate appearances that went to Beltran.
If winning now and making the most of his two-way talents are top priorities for Ohtani, the Astros have to be considered a strong contender.
Kansas City Royals
The Pitch: "Umm...ever had Kansas City-style barbecue? It's really good."
It's not a great time for the Royals to be wooing someone.
The potential departures of Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas mean the franchise is headed for an unavoidable rebuild, and with the game's second-worst farm system, it's going to be a lengthy process.
The barbecue thing was a joke, but only to a point.
K.C.'s best pitch might be the city itself and a fanbase that ranked second in viewership, according to Forbes, even in a season in which the team posted a losing record.
Los Angeles Angels
The Pitch: "You have your sights set on being the best player in the world, so why not share a locker room with the guy you'll be chasing for that title?"
Ohtani has lofty ambitions for his professional career, and it starts with his move stateside.
"That's the path you have to walk in the process of becoming the best player in the world. That's the ultimate goal for a baseball player, so I would definitely like to experience that," he said Nov. 11, per Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times.
If Ohtani is to become the best player in the game, he'll first have to unseat Angels superstar Mike Trout, who is widely regarded as the most talented player on the planet.
What better way to gauge how he stacks up than to play alongside Trout in Anaheim?
Ohtani may see the opportunity to share a dugout with another generational talent as too good to pass up.
As for the Angels, after winning 80 games last season, they could be fringe contenders with slightly improved health from their in-house pitchers. Adding Ohtani to the mix would make them a postseason threat.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Pitch: "We were one win away from a World Series title, we have a stacked roster and you would get to pick the brain of the best pitcher in baseball. What more could you ask for?"
No one has been more active on the international market in recent years than the Dodgers, and that includes the eight-year, $25 million deal Kenta Maeda signed prior to the 2016 season.
Maeda, 29, spent eight seasons with the Hiroshima Carp before he joined Los Angeles. He's one of the few active pitchers who has successfully made the leap from the Japanese League, and he'd be an invaluable sounding board for Ohtani while he goes through that same process.
And as for Ohtani's wanting to be the best player in the world, what better resource to help further hone his craft than Clayton Kershaw?
On the team level, the Dodgers already have everything they need to be World Series contenders again in 2018.
Ohtani would make them the odds-on favorites to hoist the trophy, and while he wouldn't have a prime opportunity to showcase his offensive game, the comfort of playing with a countryman and opportunity to serve as the No. 2 behind Kershaw would be intriguing.
The Pitch: "Trading Giancarlo Stanton might seem like a drastic step, but this organization has a long-term plan that's going to finally take us from afterthought to perennial contender. You'd be a huge part of that plan."
The Marlins haven't had a winning season since 2009, and the only two times the franchise reached the playoffs, it won the World Series and then set to work dismantling a roster it couldn't afford.
Say what you will about the new ownership group's plans to trim the payroll to $90 million—starting with working to move Stanton—but this organization needed a change in philosophy and got it.
Aggressively going in a new direction and selling Ohtani on the idea of being the centerpiece of that vision is its best chance to convince him Miami is the place to be.
One other chip in the Marlins' favor is the presence of Japanese-born reliever Junichi Tazawa, who is represented by the same agent—Nez Balelo of CAA Sports—Ohtani hired earlier this month.
The Pitch: "It's time to make the leap from rebuilding to contender, and you're just the guy to get us over the hump. Don't think we're asking you to do it alone, though. We've got money to spend and our sights set on a busy offseason."
The Brewers surprised more than a few people by winning 86 games and finishing second in the NL Central in 2017, arriving on the scene as a wild-card contender earlier than expected.
That despite a payroll that ranked dead last in the majors at $83.5 million.
Adam McCalvy and Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported Nov. 13 that general manager David Stearns said he's "cast a wide net" in his search for roster upgrades and that starting pitching is the team's top priority.
MLB Trade Rumors went so far as to predict Milwaukee to be the unexpected landing spot for free agent Jake Arrieta.
Could a run at Yu Darvish with an eye on using him to help recruit Ohtani be in the cards?
There are plenty of teams that could view Ohtani as the missing piece to make a jump from pretender to contender, but the Brewers have one of the best claims.
Chase Anderson, Zach Davies and Jimmy Nelson—once he returns from shoulder surgery—would look awfully good as the 3-4-5 guys in the starting rotation as opposed to being asked to lead the staff.
The Pitch: "We followed a 103-loss season with a trip to the AL Wild Card Game, and we're just getting started."
It's been a roller-coaster last few years for the Twins.
After a 92-loss season in 2014, they surprised with a winning record in 2015. One step forward was followed by more than a few steps back, though, as a 103-loss season in 2016 earned them the first pick in the draft in June. They then finished 85-77 in 2017 and grabbed the second AL wild card.
This time around, their rise to contention appears to be a bit more sustainable.
The offense finished seventh in the majors in runs scored (815) and will return all its key pieces, while the starting rotation welcomed a potential ace to the mix in Jose Berrios, who had a breakout season.
With top prospects Stephen Gonsalves and Fernando Romero expected to arrive in short order, the future looks bright on the pitching side of things. Ohtani would take that to another level.
Minnesota is also one of three teams that can offer a bonus north of $3 million, and while money is not expected to be the driving factor in negotiations, it won't hurt the Twins' chances.
New York Mets
The Pitch: "Terrific starting pitching is what led us to the World Series in 2015, and it's how we plan on getting back there in 2018—starting by adding you to the staff."
The Mets ranked fourth in the majors with a 3.44 starters' ERA during the 2015 season, when the three-headed monster of Jacob deGrom (14-8, 2.54 ERA), Matt Harvey (13-8, 2.71 ERA) and then-rookie Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 3.24 ERA) paved the way to the NL pennant.
That figure climbed to 3.61 (third) in 2016, and the team was ousted in the NL Wild Card Game. It spiked to an unsightly 5.14 (27th) in 2017.
Injuries played a major role, as deGrom was the only pitcher on the staff to reach 120 innings. If New York hopes to rebound, it's going to need to get back to using pitching as the driving force.
The Mets should hold plenty of intrigue for Ohtani in part because of the endorsement opportunities that come with playing in the sport's largest market. They might play second fiddle to the Yankees, but that wouldn't hurt Ohtani's marketability, and he could give Aaron Judge a run for his money as the face of baseball in New York.
Again, if Ohtani prefers to start his career in the more pitcher-friendly NL, the Mets are an attractive landing spot.
New York Yankees
The Pitch: "We have a storied history. We have a young core ready to contend for the next decade. We have a familiar face in Masahiro Tanaka signed on for the next three years. We have the market to help you earn back all the money you left on the table. What are you waiting for?"
The Yankees are the favorites to sign Ohtani for a reason.
They arrived as title contenders ahead of schedule in what was expected to be a "retooling" season. They've been working hard to avoid any payroll clutter with an eye on adding at least one superstar on the 2018-19 free-agent market, and it's reasonable to think the best is yet to come from their core.
Slotting Ohtani alongside Tanaka and Luis Severino would give the team three frontline starters, and there's enough pitching talent in the pipeline to think they could have one of the best staffs in the league within the next few seasons.
Playing in the New York market would be like nothing Ohtani has done before. Tanaka, however, has been through everything he'll have to face, from the transition to pitching under the bright lights of October. What better person to have by his side for at least the next three seasons?
The market has swallowed up its fair share of athletes, but it also presents opportunities like nowhere else in the world.
It has to be considered the Yankees' race to lose at this point.
The Pitch: "Yankee Stadium was 'The House That Ruth Built,' and we often hear you compared to Babe Ruth. Just think, our new stadium—once we finally get it—could be The House That Ohtani Built."
Might as well play off all that Babe Ruth talk, right?
The A's might be a small-market team, but that hasn't stopped them from wading around in the high-end international free-agent pool in the past.
That most notably includes signing Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million deal back when Cuban defectors were still a far bigger question mark. They also landed touted prospect Lazaro Armenteros with a $3 million bonus in 2016.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane finally uttered the word "rebuild" this summer, before he traded ace Sonny Gray to the Yankees amid a handful of other moves.
Oakland is going to be a young team, and the next few years are going to be lean ones, but with B/R's No. 8 farm system already in place, it won't take as long as some might think for this team to return to relevance.
Ohtani would be the unquestioned face of the franchise and have a chance to carve out a legacy with a team in transition.
The Pitch: "We have so much money we don't know what to do with it. Honestly, if we could give you $200 million right now, we would. Instead, we'll use that money to go all-in on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado next winter."
The Phillies have just one guaranteed salary—the $3.4 million owed to Odubel Herrera—on the books for the 2018 season and another $19.2 million in projected arbitration salaries, per MLB Trade Rumors.
For a franchise that boasted a payroll of $183.5 million as recently as 2014, there's an awful lot of money to spend.
Selling Ohtani on the idea that he's the first in what will be a series of splashy free-agent signings is the best pitch the team has to offer after a disappointing 96-loss season that amounted to a spinning of the tires on the road back to contention.
There are some solid core pieces already in place, like right-hander Aaron Nola and slugger Rhys Hoskins, and there are plenty more on the way from a farm system that includes top-100 prospects Mickey Moniak (28), Sixto Sanchez (46), Scott Kingery (49), J.P. Crawford (53), Jorge Alfaro (61) and Adam Haseley (87).
That mix of payroll flexibility and youth gives Philadelphia a ton of upside, albeit with a healthy dose of uncertainty.
The Pitch: "If you're looking for a splashy landing spot, look elsewhere. If you're looking to make the most out of your incredible raw talent, no one is better equipped to help you than Ray Searage."
Ray Searage became the Pirates pitching coach in 2010.
During his time with the team, he's helped resurrect more than a few careers.
Joel Hanrahan, James McDonald, Kevin Correia, Jason Grilli, A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, Edinson Volquez, Vance Worley, J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton, Neftali Feliz, Juan Nicasio and Ivan Nova all thrived under his tutelage after previously struggling.
Just think of what he could do given the opportunity to work with Ohtani.
If Ohtani does have his sights set on being the best player in the game, the chance to work with the man many consider the best pitching coach in the game is the Pirates' best sales pitch.
San Diego Padres
The Pitch: "What pitcher doesn't want to play half his games at Petco Park?"
The media circus that comes with being such a hyped international prospect puts an incredible amount of pressure on a player.
Daisuke Matsuzaka won 15 games as a rookie with the Red Sox, but he also pitched to a 4.40 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in what was widely considered to be a disappointing debut, at least relative to expectations.
With that in mind, Ohtani might prefer to begin his MLB career in a pitcher's park that would give him the best chance to experience success.
Petco Park doesn't have the same sprawling dimensions as it did before the fences were moved in following the 2012 season, but it remains a pitcher's paradise.
According to ESPN's park factors, it ranked 29th in both runs and home runs in 2017.
San Francisco Giants
The Pitch: "We're definitely maybe going to get Giancarlo Stanton."
The Giants are in a tough spot.
They're fresh off a disastrous 98-loss season, they're up against the luxury tax threshold, and they're working with a thin farm system that one AL scout described as in the bottom five, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
At this point, they're in danger of becoming the 2013 Phillies: a team just a few years removed from a World Series title but trapped under bad contracts and facing a daunting uphill battle once it finally commits to an overdue rebuild.
That being said, the front office has given no indication it plans on rebuilding just yet, and San Francisco has already submitted an offer to Miami for Stanton, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
AT&T Park is beautiful and still one of the best pitcher's parks in the game. The long-term outlook might not be great for the Giants, but another run at contention in 2018 is not out of the question.
Would that be enough on which to sell Ohtani?
If not, maybe they can sell him on how fun it would be to have daily home run derbies with Madison Bumgarner.
The Pitch: "Kazuhiro Sasaki, Ichiro Suzuki, Kenji Johjima, Hisashi Iwakuma—these are guys you grew up watching and they all enjoyed MLB success right here in Seattle."
The Mariners could pitch the fact that Seattle is closer to home than any other MLB city. A plane trip to Sapporo, Japan, where Ohtani played for the Nippon Ham Fighters, takes about 15 hours.
They could also talk up a talented roster and a team that's been on the fringe of contention the past several seasons and might be one frontline arm away from making serious noise.
They could commit to making every effort to sign in free agency Yu Darvish, a player with whom Ohtani has developed a friendship as his offseason workout partner.
They'll almost certainly pitch all of those things and more when it comes time to make their case.
The pipeline from Japan to Seattle, however, might be their best argument.
No one has experienced more success making the jump from Japan than Ichiro, and there could be a certain comfort level that would come with following in his footsteps.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Pitch: "There's not a better baseball city than St. Louis, and there's not a better catcher to handle your transition than Yadier Molina. Also, we're definitely maybe getting Giancarlo Stanton."
It seems every year there's one media outlet or another that names St. Louis the best baseball city.
That's certainly up for debate, but there's no arguing with the second-highest home attendance (42,567 per game) in the game. And there's no denying the city is flooded with diehard Cardinals fans.
That's a good place for St. Louis to start in its pitch to Ohtani.
Talking up the organization's ability to develop in-house talent and selling Ohtani on the opportunity to work with Molina would also be significant chips in its favor.
And then, of course, there's that potential Stanton blockbuster for which everyone is waiting.
Per Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Cardinals joined the Giants over the weekend in submitting an offer for the Marlins slugger. If he's willing to waive his no-trade clause to come to the Midwest, there's no question they have the pieces to swing a deal.
It's going to be a busy offseason in St. Louis.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Pitch: "We're already grooming one two-way player in Brendan McKay, and we're more than willing to give you the same opportunity."
The Rays drafted Brendan McKay with the No. 4 pick in June after he won the Golden Spikes Award during his junior season at Louisville.
Some scouts preferred him as a polished left-handed pitcher who went 11-3 with a 2.56 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 109 innings on the mound. Others liked him as a sweet-swinging first baseman who hit .341/.457/.659 with 18 home runs and 57 RBI.
Tampa Bay liked his upside, and he made 21 starts at first base, 15 at DH and six on the mound in his first pro campaign.
Plenty of teams can say they're willing to give Ohtani an opportunity to be a two-way player. Not many can point to an in-house example to prove that willingness.
And with incumbent DH Corey Dickerson projected for a $6.4 million salary—fifth-highest on the team—the front office might actively be searching for a cheaper source of power.
The Pitch: "We have a hitter-friendly park, but that didn't stop Yu Darvish from enjoying plenty of success on the mound. It's the best of both worlds for someone with your talents."
The Rangers won negotiating rights with Yu Darvish thanks to a $51.7 million posting fee prior to the 2012 season.
While they won't be able to outbid everyone else this time around, they do have $3.5 million in remaining bonus pool money. That's more than any other team, with the Yankees ($3.3 million) and Twins ($3.2 million) the only others with more than $3 million.
Convincing Ohtani to come to a hitter-friendly environment like Globe Life Park won't be easy, but they can use Darvish as a relatable success story.
In his four-plus seasons with the team, Darvish went 31-19 with a 3.60 ERA and 509 strikeouts in 417.2 innings at home.
The team also has an opening at DH, assuming Joey Gallo takes over as the everyday first baseman in place of the departed Mike Napoli.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Pitch: "There's an inevitable culture shock that comes with making such a huge transition, but moving to the most diverse city in the world should help with that."
BBC Radio (h/t Metro) named Toronto the most diverse city in the world, and even if it's not No. 1 on your list, it certainly belongs in the conversation.
And with only one baseball team in Canada, essentially the entire country makes up the Blue Jays fanbase, so it's no surprise they ranked fourth in average attendance (39,554) last season.
New York might be a melting pot, but if Ohtani wants as smooth a transition as possible off the field, Toronto deserves a closer look.
He'd also get to play alongside one of the game's rising stars and a dynamic personality in Marcus Stroman.
The Blue Jays appear to be headed for a transitional period of sorts with Josh Donaldson headed for free agency after 2018 and fellow sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista already gone.
Ohtani would be the cornerstone of the team's future.
The Pitch: "It's a make-or-break season for us. You'd have a chance to be part of one of the best starting rotations in baseball history, and you'd be playing for a team that's hell-bent on winning the World Series in 2018."
Plenty of teams are well-positioned for success in 2018.
No team, however, is more desperate for a title than the Nationals, whose Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez are set to reach free agency next offseason.
Slotting Ohtani alongside three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and fellow ace Stephen Strasburg would be terrifying for the rest of the NL.
The storyline of Harper's free agency and the team's need to win now might even help deflect some of the pressure and attention from Ohtani in his rookie season.
And yes, Scherzer and Strasburg are great players, but Harper is the most marketable guy on the team. That's a title that would likely go to Ohtani if Harper leaves.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.