For weeks, Major League Baseball fans have been eagerly waiting for the hot stove of the off-season to heat up. It officially began on Friday, when Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani finally made his decision to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
His decision comes after weeks of speculation and a lengthy agreement that had to be worked out between the player’s union and the Nippon Professional Baseball League due to what was perceived as an unfair Collective Bargaining Agreement, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
After that was settled, MLB teams were asked to fill out a “questionnaire” sent by Ohtani’s representatives, which asked how the clubs were going to use Ohtani and what they were going to do to help him adapt to the United States.
Ohtani wants to both pitch and hit, which has made his decision so interesting, especially since he has seemed to favor American League teams throughout the entire process. Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia stated that they plan to DH Ohtani when he is not pitching, which might be a problem. They have an expensive, but aging, DH in Albert Pujols, but are in desperate need of pitching and willing to compromise.
The New York Yankees were perceived favorites, due to their vast resources, big market and deep pockets. It was quickly revealed that the Yankees were actually the opposite of what Ohtani desired. Almost immediately, Ohtani crossed the Yankees off his list.
Ohtani wanted a small market, West Coast team in order to be as close to Japan as possible while also not dealing with major media pressure. After crossing teams off the list, after 27 sent in presentations, there were seven that were left: Dodgers, Mariners, Cubs, Rangers, Padres, Giants and the eventual winner, Angels.
He ended up choosing a club from Los Angeles, although one that is often glanced over in favor of the celebrity-friendly Dodgers, but people were quick to point out the fact that the Angels were, all in all, a safer option. The New York and Boston media attacked him almost immediately, with the New York Daily News running a cover that read “What a Chicken! Japan Star snubs Yanks, fears big city.”
If Ohtani does not live up to the hype, as he is being called the “Japanese Babe Ruth,” the Angel’s media and fan base would possibly not be as harsh. With this being said, the Angels are expecting a lot out of him, as they are desperate to get to the postseason. Time is not on their side, as they are dealing with an unmovable Pujols contact and Mike Trout potentially gone in 2020.
Despite all of the hype, the official press conference and introduction of Ohtani on Saturday was interrupted by big news: Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the Yankees.
Now that these two players are settled on a new team, the Orlando Winter Meetings are now open grounds for anyone to be traded or signed anywhere.