Where EAST meets the Northwest
TWO-WAY THREAT. Baseball player Shohei Ohtani, from Japan, smiles during a
news conference at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. Ohtani intends to be
both a starting pitcher and an everyday power hitter for his new team. (AP
Photo/Jae C. Hong)
From The Asian Reporter, V27, #24 (December 18, 2017), pages 4 & 16.
Japanese pitcher-hitter Shohei Ohtani chooses the L.A. Angels
By Greg Beacham
AP Sports Writer
ANAHEIM, Calif. ó Shohei Ohtani has decided heís on the side of the Angels.
The Japanese two-way star announced heís signing with the Los Angeles Angels,
ending the sweepstakes surrounding his move to the majors in a surprising
Ohtani, who intends to be both a starting pitcher and an everyday power
hitter, turned down interest from every other big-league club to join two-time
MVP Mike Trout and slugger Albert Pujols with the Angels, who are coming off
their second consecutive losing season and havenít won a playoff game since
The Angelsí combination of a promising core and a beautiful west coast
location clearly appealed to the 23-year-old Ohtani, who has confounded baseball
experts at almost every step of his move to North America as one of the most
coveted free agents in years.
Ohtani and his agent, Nez Balelo, issued a statement announcing the decision
after meeting with several finalists for his services.
Balelo said the 2016 Japanese MVP "felt a true bond with the Angels. He sees
this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his
After his unusual courtship, Ohtani will attempt to chart a unique career
path as the majorsí first regular two-way player in several decades. Ohtani
already has drawn numerous comparisons to Babe Ruth, who excelled as a hitter
and a pitcher early in his Hall of Fame career.
Ohtani is expected to be both a right-handed starting pitcher and a
left-handed designated hitter for the Angels, who are expected to give him ample
playing time in both roles.
Many baseball observers have long assumed Ohtani would choose a
higher-profile franchise such as the Yankees or Dodgers, who would have both
welcomed him into their rotation and lineup. He received serious attention from
Seattle and Texas, who both could have given him more money than the Angels.
Ohtani listened to his suitorsí final pitches in Los Angeles before choosing
the Angels, who play about 28 miles from downtown L.A. in laid-back Orange
County. Most of the Angels live in coastal Newport Beach and enjoy a
comfortable, warm-weather lifestyle with ample big-market media attention, but
without the withering scrutiny of other top destinations.
Yet Angels general manager Billy Eppler is very serious about winning, and he
has spent several years scouting Ohtani, ever since his previous job with the
"We are honored Shohei Ohtani has decided to join the Angels organization,"
the franchise said in a brief statement. "We felt a unique connectivity with him
throughout the process and are excited he will become an Angel. This is a
special time for Angels fans."
Ohtani has ample opportunity to fulfill his biggest ambitions with the
Angels, who are in need of a top starting pitcher. They should also be able to
fit him into their lineup when he isnít pitching: Pujols has largely been a
designated hitter for the past two seasons, but the three-time National League
MVP is expected to be healthy enough to play first base more frequently in 2018.
Ohtaniís new teammates greeted the news joyously. Left fielder Justin Upton
tweeted, "So pumped right now ..."
Trout, who was getting married over the weekend to his longtime girlfriend,
simply sent out the emoji of two bugged-out eyes.
Ohtaniís disappointed suitors included Rangers general manager Jon Daniels,
who had hoped Ohtani would follow in the footsteps of Yu Darvish, their former
Japanese ace, instead of going to one of their American League West rivals.
"Weíre disappointed we werenít Shohei Ohtaniís choice, but wish him the best
in Anaheim," Daniels said. "He impressed us on and off the field at every turn.
However, had he asked our opinion, we would have suggested the National League."
Ohtani was coveted by every team because of his exceptional pitching talent
and powerful bat, but also because he represents an extraordinary bargain due to
baseballís rules around international players.
The Angels will have to pay the $20 million posting fee to Ohtaniís previous
club, the Nippon Ham Fighters, but Ohtani will not be paid a huge salary for the
next three seasons. Ohtani, who will be under the Angelsí contractual control
for six years, will sign a minor league contract and can receive up to
$2,315,000 in international bonus money from the Angels.
Ohtani likely could have received a deal worth more than $100 million if he
had waited two years to move stateside, but Ohtani wasnít interested in delaying
his progress for money.
Ohtani should get an immediate spot in the front of the rotation for the
Angels, who have endured brutal injuries to their starting pitchers in recent
Los Angelesí ostensible ace is Garrett Richards, but he has been limited to
62 1/3 innings over the past two seasons. The rotation also currently includes
Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney, and Tyler Skaggs, who have all dealt with major
Ohtani was 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA this year while slowed by thigh and ankle
injuries, but those numbers donít indicate the incredible potential seen in a
pitcher whose fastball has been clocked above 100 mph. While he has occasionally
struggled with control, Ohtani is widely thought to be a surefire big-league
Scouts are more divided on Ohtaniís ability to hit big-league pitching
consistently, but the Angels intend to find out. He hit .332 in 65 games with
eight homers and 31 RBI last season, occasionally unleashing the tape-measure
blasts that had teams salivating.
In 2016, Ohtani hit .322 with 22 home runs and 67 RBI in 104 games. He also
was 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA.
The Angels could ease Ohtaniís transition to the majors by resting him on the
days before and after he pitches, as he did in Japan. Los Angeles also has
thought about trying a six-man starting rotation, which would allow Ohtani to
have ample arm rest after pitching roughly once a week in Japan.
The Angels have missed the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons, but
Ohtaniís arrival is only the latest in a series of big moves for Eppler, who is
determined to build a World Series contender during the remaining three years on
Shortly after the World Series ended, the Angels secured a five-year,
$106-million deal with Upton, their late-season trade acquisition. The veteran
slugger is an ideal solution after years of underperformance in left field for
Also this month, Eppler bolstered his much-improved farm system by signing
17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan, a prospect considered the best of
13 players recently taken away from the Atlanta Braves for violating
international signing rules.
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