Shohei Ohtani Agrees to Contract with Angels over Mariners, Dodgers and Others

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 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

The Los Angeles Angels added one of this year's marquee free agents Friday when they signed Japanese pitcher and outfielder Shohei Ohtani.

Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo, explained the decision, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times: "What mattered to him most wasn't market size, time zone or league but that he felt a true bond with the Angels. He sees this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his career goals."

The Angels released the following statement, via Mark Feinsand of MLB.com: "We are honored Shohei Ohtani has decided to join the Angels organization. We felt a unique connectivity with him throughout the process and are excited he will become an Angel. This is a special time for Angels fans, the Ohtani family, and Nez Balelo and the team at Creative Artists Agency."

Angels star Mike Trout was quick to respond to the news:

The pursuit of Ohtani was intriguing enough because of his overwhelming talent, but it also led to meetings between the Nippon Professional Baseball League, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association regarding the posting system.

MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the sides reached an agreement that would keep the previous posting rules in place until after the 2018 season, freeing Ohtani to come to the United States. Under the system, MLB teams could pay Ohtani's team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, up to $20 million for the posting fee.

Ohtani's case was particularly interesting because he is only 23 years old.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, anyone under 25 years old was defined as an international amateur, restricting them to a minor league contract with a signing bonus from a team's international bonus pool.

The Associated Press noted the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners were the only teams that could offer Ohtani more than $1 million this offseason, with the Rangers having the most available money at $3.5 million.

The rules meant Ohtani's pursuit was about more than just one team offering a massive deal on the open market, which worked in the Angels' favor since they landed someone who can serve as a dominant starting pitcher or powerful force at the plate.

Jim Duquette of MLB.com ranked him as the second-best free agent behind only Yu Darvish, noting Ohtani could even play designated hitter or outfield when not starting if his eventual team wished.

According to Dayn Perry of CBSSports.com, Ohtani slashed .286/.358/.500 over the last five seasons and can throw his fastball 100 mph with impressive secondary pitches.

If he fulfills his potential as even just a pitcher for the Angels, he will provide a boost to a staff that finished a middling 12th in the league in ERA (4.20) in 2017.

It was no secret the Halos were interested in him this offseason, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported it was one of the seven finalists set to meet with him after he trimmed his list.

Ohtani gives the team additional star power alongside Trout as it attempts to establish itself as a contender in the American League West. The Angels have made the playoffs just once in the last eight seasons but have new optimism moving forward after landing arguably the biggest prize on the free-agent market this offseason. 

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