On Friday, Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani was posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with MLB teams. With Ohtani’s contract limited to team’s international bonus pool, money isn’t the deciding factor. This gives the Milwaukee Brewers a chance where they otherwise wouldn’t.
If Ohtani had waited two more years, he would’ve earned somewhere near $200 million on his initial contract. With a bidding war like that, the Milwaukee Brewers would have had no chance of signing the Japanese Babe Ruth. But since he was posted this off season, the most he can sign for is $3.5 million. That’s the most amount of many any team has left in their international bonus pool. That team is the Texas Rangers. The Brewers only have $765,000 remaining in their bonus pool to offer to Ohtani.
But Ohtani himself has stated that money is not what concerns him. In a memo sent to every MLB team, Ohtani asked teams to fill out a questionnaire regarding their team policies. He requested they answer these questions in both English and Japanese. GM David Stearns has confirmed that the Milwaukee Brewers have completed and turned in the questionnaire to Ohtani’s agents.
- The New York Yankees are considered the favorite to land Ohtani for some time. However, there was a rumor that Ohtani would prefer to go to a team that doesn’t already have an established Japanese player. That would take the Yankees out of the equation as they already have Masahiro Tanaka in their rotation. Also, the Los Angeles Dodgers have Kenta Maeda in their rotation which could eliminate them from contention, if this rumor is true.
- Ohtani is in Los Angeles preparing to meet with teams all next week as the sweepstakes kick into high gear. Many clubs will be sending executives and even players to help recruit Ohtani to their cause. The Milwaukee Brewers have interest, but it is not yet clear if they plan to head to LA to meet with the young superstar. David Stearns has said it is up to Ohtani to reciprocate the Brewers interest. If he does not, Stearns says the Crew would be out of the contest.
- Ohtani has just begun a three week negotiating window, as per the posting agreement. He will have to choose his team by December 22nd.
- Ohtani has chosen Nez Balelo as his agent. Balelo is also the agent for current Brewers stars Ryan Braun and Jimmy Nelson. He also represented Nori Aoki when he came over from Japan. The relationship the Brewers have with Balelo could aid their pursuit of Ohtani.
Are there any other news or rumors?
With Stearns comments on Ohtani, it seems like he won’t put together a hard push for the Japanese superstar. Teams like the Mariners and Astros have said they will be pulling out all the stops to recruit the two-way player. Stearns seems content to sit back and see if Ohtani calls back after reading through the Crew’s questionnaire responses. Is that the right way to recruit him? Maybe. No one really knows how to appeal best to Ohtani. Everyone seems to be going through this process in the dark.
Since Ohtani does want to both pitch and hit, signing with a team in the National League like the Milwaukee Brewers presents an issue. Without the DH, it’s difficult to see Ohtani getting regular at-bats outside of the days he pitches. He plays in the outfield on the days he doesn’t pitch and the crowded outfield situation in Milwaukee has been well documented.
But with a player of Ohtani’s caliber, David Stearns will find a way to get him into the lineup on a regular basis. He can hit 30 plus homers a season and should have an average around .270, so imagine adding a left-handed Domingo Santana can also lead a rotation with a 102 MPH fastball and four quality breaking pitches. Even if there isn’t room now, the Brewers will make room for a player like Ohtani.
A clear favorite hasn’t emerged yet and likely won’t for some time. David Stearns is playing it cool and isn’t publicly pushing the Ohtani hype machine. That’s not his style anyway. Stearns maneuvers in complete silence and doesn’t allow many rumors to fly about his movements. He could swoop in near the end and make a deal without anyone knowing about it.
The Ohtani sweepstakes could gain some more clarity after the Winter Meetings later this month. As always, we will keep you apprised of the latest happenings surrounding the Milwaukee Brewers and if any connection comes up between the Crew and Ohtani.