Anticipation was abound once it became evident the Nippon-Ham Fighters would post Shohei Ohtani this winter. In advance of that being formalized, Ohtani sent a memo to all 30 clubs.
It included a questionnaire that among other inquiries, asked clubs how they intended to utilize the two-way star. The seven questions that were to be answered by interested teams was viewed as a means for Ohtani to pare his options.
The end results was seven finalists in the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. Ohtani concluded his round of meetings with each team this week.
Now at the point of weighing his options, the Mariners and Padres are the favorites to sign the 23-year-old, according to Jim Bowden of SiriusXM:
— Jim Bowden🌟🎤 (@Jim_BowdenSXM) December 7, 2017
That the Padres may have an early edge hardly comes as a surprise. They employee executives Logan White and Acey Kohrogi, both of whom recruited Ohtani for the Dodgers a handful of years ago.
Plus, the Fighters held a portion of their Spring Training at the Padres’ facility over the past two years.
Meanwhile, the Mariners have previously signed Nori Aoki, Hisashi Iwakuma and Ichiro Suzuki, among other Japanese players.
The Angels and Mariners each completed trades with the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night to acquire $1 million in international bonus pool money. Seattle now can offer Ohtani a $2.5 million signing bonus, while the Angels’ ledger is up to $2.3 million.
The Rangers lead the seven finalists with $3.5 million available, while the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Padres are all capped at $300,000.
While the Angels and Mariners moved to improve their financial standing, it’s not considered to be a top priority for Ohtani. That in some part is evident by his making the jump to the Majors at present time.
Had Ohtani waited two more years, at which point he would’ve been 25 years old and not limited to bonus pools, it’s estimated he could have signed a contract worth at least $200 million.