Japanese Superstar Shohei Ohtani Shocks Everyone By Spurning Mariners In Favor Of Angels

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

Coming off a losing season, the Los Angeles Angels still managed to nab perhaps the most intriguing free agent maybe ever: two-way Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani.

The Mariners, armed with more international pool money to offer and a history of beloved Japanese stars, were seen as the favorites to land the 23-year-old’s services. But because they’re the Mariners, a team whose penchant for splashy offseason moves has netted them just two winning seasons in the past eight years, Ohtani took his talents elsewhere.

(Had Ohtani waited until his 25th birthday to come to the United States, he could have commanded a bonkers, limitless salary. Because of restrictions on international free-agent signings, his decision to come now meant that he had to settle for what teams had left in international pool money. The Angels had $2.21 million available; the Mariners about $3.6 million.)

Mariners fans were not enthused.

“This morning, after a thorough, detailed process, Shohei Ohtani has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels,” Ohtani’s agent said in a statement. “Shohei is humbled and flattered by all the time and effort that so many teams put into their presentations and sincerely thanks them for their professionalism. In the end, he felt a strong connection with the Angels and believes they can best help him reach his goals in Major League Baseball.

“I want to thank the clubs and everyone else for respecting our intent to make this very important process as private as possible. We were resolved to having a fair, methodical process. Teams clearly put in a lot of work, and we are grateful for that.”

The fuss: Landing Ohtani is basically like signing two players in one, as he’s been dominant both on the mound and at the plate in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.

As a right-handed starting pitcher, he owns a career ERA of 2.52 in five seasons for the Nippon Ham Fighters, striking out an insane 10.3 batters per nine innings and hitting 102 MPH on the radar. As a lefty at the dish, he hit .322/.416/.588 in 2016, when he was named MVP of the Japan Pacific League, then went .332/.403/.540 last season in limited action, due to injury.