Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani has chosen to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, according to an announcement from his agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports.
Ohtani chose the Angels over six other finalists— the Mariners, Padres, Cubs, Rangers, Padres and Giants. The Halos have $2.315 million in international bonus money to give Ohtani, who will receive a minor-league contract and be under club control for six seasons.
The league-wide pursuit of Ohtani, a 23-year-old two-way player who has been dubbed the “Japanese Babe Ruth,” was unlike anything seen before in baseball due to the unique circumstances surrounding his arrival. Ohtani’s age (less than 25) meant his signing was governed by international signing rules, causing money to play just a small role in his decision in comparison to other factors. The Yankees were seen as the original favorite to sign him, though his reported preference for the west coast led to in-person meetings with seven clubs, five of which were located in the west.
Seattle and San Diego were seen by some to be the most likely spots in recent days, with the Mariners acquiring $2 million in additional international pool money in an effort to increase their offer. The Angels sent outfield prospect Jacob Pearson to the Twins for $1 million in pool money Wednesday, increasing their offer to $2.315 million.
All told, the Angels will pay a sum of $22.315 million for Ohtani’s services, combining the bonus with the $20 million posting fee to be paid to the Nippon Ham Fighters. Major League Baseball will strictly monitor the relationship between the club and the player to ensure he doesn’t sign an early extension for more guaranteed money, as that would violate the spirit of the international signing system.
In Ohtani, the Halos acquire a player who hit .332/.403/.540 with eight homers in 65 games while posting a 3.20 ERA in five starts for Nippon last season. In five seasons in Japan, he owns a .286/.358/.500 line in 1,035 at-bats and 2.52 ERA in 543 innings.
Ohtani will slot into a rotation that is slated to include Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney in 2018, giving Los Angeles some flexibility to trade arms as the winter continues. Because of a crowded outfield mix that includes superstar Mike Trout, recent addition Justin Upton and right-fielder Kole Calhoun, Ohtani may see significant time at designated hitter while Albert Pujols returns to first base.
The Angels were two games under .500 last season and finished five games back of a wild card spot despite having an injury-ravaged pitching staff. They’ll look to compete with the World Series champion Astros and always aggressive Mariners in a division that has already seen plenty of offseason activity despite the slow pace around baseball. In addition to the Angels signing Ohtani, Seattle has made significant trades for Dee Gordon and Ryon Healhy and the Rangers have signed free agents Mike Minor and Doug Fister.