The Seattle Mariners are actively in the hunt for Shohei Ohtani. You could say their odds are now one in seven that Japan’s version of Babe Ruth, as Ohtani has been called, will play in Seattle.
According to reports Ohtani has cut the field of major league teams he is considering to seven. The teams under consideration are the Mariners, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, the San Diego Padres, the Chicago Cubs and the Texas Rangers.
Several teams said Sunday they were told they had been eliminated, and the seven remaining were confirmed Monday to The Associated Press by a pair of people familiar with the choices. They spoke on condition of anonymity because not all teams had announced whether they were in or out.
Ohtani was put up for bid Friday by the Pacific League’s Nippon Ham Fighters for the maximum $20 million posting fee. The 23-year-old has until 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 22 to agree to a contract with an MLB team.
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News began leaking out on Sunday that several teams – including the New York Yankees, the team many considered the front-runner to land Ohtani – were being told they were out of the running.
Brian Cashman, the Yankees general manager, revealed that Ohtani’s representatives informed him that Ohtani, one of the most intriguing players to come out of Japan in more than a decade, will not choose the Yankees.
Speaking Sunday night in Stamford, Connecticut, before his annual rappel down a building for the city’s Heights & Lights event, Cashman said he had learned earlier in the day that Ohtani was not interested in signing with the team, and indicated the reason is that Ohtani prefers a smaller-market team or a team on the West Coast – or both.
“I started getting a feel that wasn’t good a few days ago,” Cashman said. “I can’t change that that we’re a big market and I can’t change we’re in the East.”
Ohtani is limited to a minor league contract because of restrictions imposed by the MLB collective bargaining agreement. The Rangers have the largest signing bonus amount remaining among the teams he is considering at $3,535,000, followed by the Mariners ($1,557,500) and Angels ($1,315,000).
The Cubs, Dodgers and Giants are restricted to $300,000 maximums in the signing period through June 15 as penalties for exceeding their bonus pools in 2015-16 and the Padres are limited to $300,000 for going over in 2016-17.
The Mariners have a long history of Japanese stars, and when the Angels acquired more than $1 million in international bonus money last week in a trade with the Atlanta Braves, general manager Billy Eppler said he would apply it to a pursuit of Ohtani.
The next step in the process is face-to-face meetings between Ohtani and the finalists. According to multiple reports, Ohtani is in Los Angeles and has scheduled meetings with team executives. The Mariners have reportedly told several of their players to come to LA in order to meet with Ohtani.
BULLPEN COACH HIRED
The Mariners announced Brian DeLunas has been added to the coaching staff as the bullpen coach.
DeLunas has spent the past six months as the director of pitching development for CSE Baseball in St. Louis, Missouri. Before that, DeLunas was the co-founder of Premier Pitching and Performance (P3).
DeLunas has also served as a pitching coach at the high school level, the junior college level, the University of Missouri (2006-09) and in the Northwoods League.
He fills the spot held by Mike Hampton, who resigned at the All-Star break last season, and Nasusel Cabrera, who served as the interim coach for the remainder of the season. Cabrera will be the team’s batting practice pitcher.