Angels Win Shohei Ohtani Sweepstakes

The Angels finally have another superstar to pair with Mike Trout—Shohei Ohtani.
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The Angels finally have another superstar to pair with Mike Trout. 

Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese two-way phenom at the top of every team’s offseason shopping list, announced Friday that he will sign with the Angels. 

“What mattered to him most wasn’t market size, time zone or league but that he felt a true bond with the Angels,” Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, said in a statement. “He sees this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his career goals.”

The Angels now have MLB’s unquestioned best player and its most hyped international import. 

Ohtani was the MVP of Japan’s top league, NPB, in 2016, after hitting 22 homers with a .322 batting average and recording a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings pitched. His dominance on the mound and at the plate led to the only slightly hyperbolic nickname “the Japanese Babe Ruth.”

The Angels now have to decide how Ohtani will fit into their lineup. The prevailing wisdom was that if he went to the American League, he would be the DH on days he does not pitch. Playing the outfield between starts would be too much of a strain on his body, the thinking goes. But the Angels have Albert Pujols entrenched as their DH. Pujols’s 2017 season was by far the worst of his career—he was well below replacement value with a WAR of -1.8—though he is owed $114 million over the next four seasons. 

The Angels had $2.315 million in international signing bonus money to offer Ohtani, the third most any team had to offer. Los Angeles acquired $1 million in international funds in a trade earlier this week, while the Mariners made two trades to bring their total bonus pool to an MLB-high $3.56 million. What made Ohtani’s recruitment unusual, though, is that he cares very little about money. If he were concerned with financial matters, he would have waited two years before making the jump to North America, when he would age out of the international signing system and be allowed to sign for perhaps more than $200 million. 

The entire process moved exceptionally quickly. On Sunday, Ohtani announced that he had narrowed his list of suitors to just seven clubs—the Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres, Cubs and Rangers. He met with all of the teams on Monday and Tuesday before settling on the Angels Friday morning. The deadline for him to sign was Dec. 22.