In June I cooked up a scenario where 23 year-old Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani signs with the Texas Rangers, who would then go on to sign his friend and countryman, free agent Yu Darvish. Well, it’s now December — almost a full six months later — and that possibility still exists.
According to MLB dot com’s Mark Feinsand, “the Mariners, Giants, Padres, Rangers, Cubs and Dodgers were among the clubs with reason to remain optimistic [about signing Ohtani]” — which is journalist speak for “these six teams are the favorites” — though there is a long list of teams that have yet to say if they are officially out.
Somewhat surprisingly Ohtani’s representatives have said that the Yankees, who were perceived as one of the early favorites, did not make the cut. I haven’t read all the articles but, among the many baseball writers I follow on social media, everyone seems to think Ohtani prefers to play on the west coast. Since the Yankees have dropped out, it seems like the Mariners are the new sexy pick to win the Ohtani sweepstakes.
This writer still likes the idea of Ohtani to the Rangers. Would I bet on it? Probably not. But there is something about how all this is playing out, particularly with respect to how cagy the Ohtani camp has been throughout the process, that reminds me of how the Yu Darvish posting unfolded six years ago.
See, back then there was a different posting system. It was more like the Wild West: interested teams put in blind bids to get a seat at the negotiating table. The Rangers, a lot like they are doing right now, were noticeably quiet. Everyone thought the Blue Jays were the favorite to land him, since they were perceived to show the most interest and/or have the most connections to Darvish. When it all played out, the Rangers bid $51 million to have exclusive negotiating rights, while the Jays bid only about $27 million if I remember correctly.
So what’s it looking like with Ohtani? It’s looking the same way it did with Darvish:
Hearing Rangers, Cubs are only 2 non-West Coast teams on Ohtani’s meeting list. Rangers not saying a word.
— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) December 4, 2017
Of course the Rangers aren’t saying a word. You’re goddam right. This is what team President and General Manager Jon Daniels and the Rangers do. And, more often than not when it comes to amateur talent on the international market, when there is someone they like they get their man. I’m not suggesting that is what’s going to happen with Shohei Ohtani, but I am saying you shouldn’t be surprised if it does.
While teams like the Mariners are supposedly pulling out all the stops to land Shohei, the Rangers have been scouting and developing a relationship with he and his family since 2012, when he was just 18 years old. Many people forget, but Ohtani was seriously considering coming to the United States five years ago, and Texas was one of three teams he was most interested in.
It should come as no real shock that I am trying to wish this into reality, but I hope you don’t blame me for my rationale. I haven’t put a ton of thought into this, if only because the pieces seem to align with minimal stress. Shohei Ohtani is the most coveted free agent in the world at the moment, and the Rangers are both desperate enough to give him everything he wants, and crazy enough to actually make it happen.
If it isn’t going to be the Rangers, a sneaky darkhorse in this race is the team everyone seems to be asking what the fuck? about, the San Diego Padres. The Texas Rangers bias is strong in this one, but A.J. Preller is the Padres General Manger. In 2012 Preller worked for the Rangers as an assistant to Jon Daniels, so one can pretty safely assume that San Diego has done their diligence and made the necessary relationships with Ohtani and his family as well.
In June I said Darvish and Ohtani are a package deal until proven otherwise, and as of now it has not been proven. If nothing else that’s something, and I really appreciate getting to sweat one out over baseball news in December, which is much earlier than expected.