After literally every one of the 30 Major League Baseball teams put in an offer to get him to choose their team, Shohei Ohtani has elected to join the Anaheim Angels. The Japanese two-way player announced his decision through his agent Nez Balelo last Friday, and will now join the likes of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Garrett Richards in southern California.
Not only was Ohtani the most sought after free agent during this offseason, but he also presented one of the most rare skillsets for a player in recent memory. Being a two-way baseball player means that he excels at the plate, as well as on the mound, making him a rare pitcher who can also bat in the designated hitter spot on a team in the American League.
The 23-year-old is also a dual threat from a strength standpoint, as he pitches as a right-hander, but bats as a leftie at the plate.
“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,” Balelo said in a statement.
While he wore the #11 in Japan, that number has been retired by the Angels in honor of Jim Fregosi. Instead, Ohtani will sport the #17, which the team unveiled just after his signing.
— Angels (@Angels) December 9, 2017
Even Angels star Mike Trout FaceTimed Ohtani during his wedding preparations to congratulate his new teammate on joining the club. General Manager Billy Eppler, Manager Mike Scioscia, and team president John Carpino, among others, all greeted Ohtani as he made his first appearance in Anaheim.
“We felt really good about him,” said Eppler. “He just wants to be a baseball player, and he wants to be a good one. Obviously we’re excited to get him here and really get an opportunity to watch him continue to develop on a Major League level.”
Anaheim currently has $2.315 million in their bonus pool, which they’re expected to spend entirely on Ohtani. Since the Japanese phenom is under 25, his signing bonus cannot exceed $3.557 million due to international signing rules. Even though he could have held off for two years before moving to the MLB, Ohtani didn’t factor money into his decision, and decided he’d rather get a head start in his MLB career.
“I think he felt that there was a family-like atmosphere [with the Angels] and something that he was wanting to and willing to be a part of for a lot of years to come,” Eppler said. “I think it was his comfort level with us and not only just the plan that we put together for him, but just the overall vibe of the organization.”
Ohtani will join pitching ace Garrett Richards in the Angels starting rotation, and he is also expected to make frequent appearances at the designated hitter position. The left-handed batter will compliment the right-handed power of Trout and Justin Upton in the lineup, but Eppler also has stated that the team will feel out his two-way status in due time.
In 2016 in Japan, Ohtani recorded an ERA of 1.86 with 174 strikeouts through 140 innings. At the plate, he batted an even more impressive .322/.416/.588 and plated 22 home runs in 382 appearances while serving as a part-time designated hitter. He most recently underwent a successful ankle surgery and will be healthy by spring training.