MLB Rumors: The Texas Rangers want Shohei Ohtani, the 23 year old Japanese pitching and hitting sensation who is expected to come over to the United States to play in the majors in 2018, and to the extent money matters, they have a leg up on their competitors.
The Texas Rangers have $3.535 million available to spend from the international bonus pool, the most of any major league team. The Yankees can spend up to $3.25 million, and the Minnesota Twins have $3.245 million available.
Now, money isn’t everything -- if Ohtani waited two more years, he could likely command a $200 million plus deal, rather than getting just a signing bonus and then making the league minimum for three years until being arbitration eligible. Ohtani could certainly opt to sign with, say, the Cubs for $300,000, and forego the extra few million he could get elsewhere. Or he could decide it isn’t worth a few hundred thousand extra to play for Texas rather than for the Yankees.
Still, the consensus seems to be that the Rangers are among the favorites for Ohtani. They have a long standing presence in Japan, and have courted Ohtani for a number of years. The Rangers have laid the groundwork to snag Ohtani over a number of years, and while I don’t think you can say it is likely Ohtani lands in Texas, they seem to have about as good a chance of anyone.
Along those same lines, MLB and the NPB have agreed to grandfather Ohtani in under the now-expiring posting system while the two leagues negotiate a new posting agreement. That means that any team willing to pay the $20 million maximum for the rights to Ohtani can sign him, if Ohtani agrees to a deal.
Ohtani would be a game changer for the Rangers, should they land him. He would give them a guy viewed as a legitimate top of the rotation starter for the next six years, at well below what he would cost in free agency. A rotation with Ohtani, Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, and whatever the Rangers can add in the offseason would look a lot more formidable than what the Rangers have now.
The other interesting dynamic in all this is Ohtani’s purported desire to both pitch and hit. An American League team willing to be creative could offer Ohtani the opportunity to DH a couple of times a week, as well as to be in the rotation. And yes, the Rangers’ DH/COF situation is a bit crowded right now, but I suspect that the team would have no qualms about giving Ohtani the opportunity to get regular at bats if it meant landing him.