Texas Rangers rumors: Shohei Ohtani has the Texas Rangers on his meeting list, per Evan Grant on Twitter, who says the Rangers and the Chicago Cubs are the only two teams that aren’t on the West Coast who have made it to finalist status. Evan says that the Rangers have things on lockdown and aren’t saying anything.
The Rangers have been long seen as one of the teams with a better than average chance of landing Ohtani. They have the most money available to spend on him ($3.5 million), have spent years cultivating a relationship with him, and have indicated a willingness to let him DH some, as well as pitching.
Along with the Cubs and Rangers, the other teams that appear to be finalists are the Mariners, the Giants, the Dodgers, the Angels, and the Padres. The Yankees had been seen as the favorite prior to their being eliminated earlier today, and the conventional wisdom now has the M’s has the heavy favorite.
In the meantime, we shall watch and wait. And with meetings taking place this week, it will likely be a few days at least before we know anything more.
Ohtani, 23, is a lefthanded hitting and righthanded throwing SP/OF for the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Pacific League in Japan. Although Ohtani only pitched in 5 games in 2017 due to injuries, he’s generally considered a much better pitcher than a hitter, and is viewed as a potential top of the rotation starting pitcher from the time he arrives in the majors.
Because Ohtani is under 25, he is subject to the international bonus pool limits which all teams are subject to under the new MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement. While he would be able to command a deal of $200 million or more, were he a true free agent, he is currently only able to sign a minor league deal with a bonus of whatever a signing team has available in their bonus pool. Texas currently has the most available funds, at $3.5 million. The Yankees and Twins also have more than $3 million available, but each team has been eliminated by Ohtani from consideration.
The team that signs Ohtani would also have to pay a $20 million posting fee to the Ham Fighters, but after that, Ohtani would be subject to the same contract rules and guidelines as any other player on a minor league contract. As a result, he would likely be looking at making something close to the league minimum for his first three seasons in America, and then would be arbitration-eligible his next three seasons. MLB has made it clear that any above-market contracts or extensions given to Ohtani would be potentially viewed as an attempt to skirt the signing bonus rules, and there is some thought MLB dropped the hammer particularly hard in sanctioning the Atlanta Braves to send a signal to teams that are considering engaging in shenanigans to try to offer Ohtani under-the-table money or guarantee him more than they are allowed with a handshake deal that such efforts will be dealt with harshly.