Almost immediately after the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes began, 23 teams were eliminated as the Japanese two-way star narrowed his list to seven teams: the Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Giants, Mariners, Cubs and Rangers. While he has met with all seven clubs already, it’s hard to see anyone other than the Mariners are the favorite.
The biggest takeaway from the seven teams Ohtani has limited himself to is location. All West Coast teams are listed along with the Cubs and Rangers. A sign that the 23-year-old wants to live somewhere close to his home country. Seattle owns the edge in this department as they are 4,779 miles away from Tokyo. The rest of the West Coast teams are more than 5,000 miles away while Chicago and Arlington are more than 6,000 miles away.
Ohtani has also been adamant about being able to pitch and hit. The Mariners, Angels and Rangers have the advantage over the Dodgers, Giants, Padres and Cubs by virtue of playing in the American League and having the designated hitter. Due to the fact that Seattle has one of the best designated hitters in baseball in Nelson Cruz, it would appear that this puts Seattle at a disadvantage, but Cruz is 37 years old and is entering the final year of his contract. Ohtani and Cruz could split time as designated hitter or in the outfield before letting Cruz walk. The Angels are stuck with Albert Pujols, who was one of the worst players in baseball last year, and his unmovable contract while the Rangers are attempting to trade Shin-Soo Choo.
While Ohtani showed that money is not a priority when he removed teams like the Yankees, Twins, Pirates and Marlins from the running. All four teams were able to offer a seven-figure bonus to Ohtani while the Dodgers, Cubs, Padres and Giants could offer only $300,000 and the Angels are in an even worse spot as they can offer just $150,000. But regardless, money can still be a factor and Seattle picked up an additional $1 million in international bonus pool money in a trade with the Twins, bringing their maximum to $2,570,500, the second-best of the seven teams, behind the Cubs.
Ohtani reportedly wants to sign somewhere that doesn’t already have an established Japanese star. While Seattle has Hisashi Iwakuma, he isn’t someone I would call a “star” and having a fellow Japanese player could be beneficial and he could serve as a mentor to Ohtani. Currently, Iwakuma is a non-roster invitee to spring training. Seattle also has the third-largest Japanese population among large U.S. cities
The Mariners aren’t exactly on the Dodgers level of talent, but they have a good core and a competitive team, going 78-84 last season with ace Felix Hernandez missing half of the season and No. 2 pitcher James Paxton missing a handful of games. Ohtani would slide into the No. 3 spot in the rotation and would join an offense that has second baseman Robinson Cano, Cruz and Kyle Seager.