he Los Angeles Angels added one of this year’s marquee free agents on Friday when they signed Japanese pitcher and outfielder Shohei Ohtani.
“This morning, after a thorough, detailed process, Shohei Ohtani has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels. Shohei is humbled and flattered by all the time and effort that so many teams put into their presentations and sincerely thank them for their professionalism. In the end, he felt a strong connection with the Angels and believes they can best help him reach his goals in Major League Baseball,” reads the statement.
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 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 Marinerswere 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 CBS Sports, 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.
By Scott Polacek