Ohtani narrows list of teams

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wikimedia/Ship1231/CC BY-SA
wikimedia/Ship1231/CC BY-SA

NEW YORK (AFP) – Shohei Ohtani may be the “Babe Ruth of Japan,” but he won’t be playing for the Babe’s New York Yankees, general manager Brian Cashman has said.

Cashman told reporters that Ohtani, the coveted Japanese star primed to make a move to the US major leagues, had ruled out the Yankees and appears to prefer the idea of West Coast teams.

“The Yankees have been informed today that we have been eliminated from the Ohtani sweepstakes, so we are out,” Cashman told reporters after rappelling down the 22-story Landmark Square Building in Stamford, Connecticut. “I got a call on Sunday, this afternoon, the first round was presentations. And I don’t know who’s invited to Round Two, but we’re not.”

According to the Boston Globe, the Boston Red Sox were also informed they were eliminated from the bidding. Other media reports indicated that the Toronto Blue Jays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Minnesota Twins, Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets are out of the hunt.

Meanwhile, reports suggested that the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants are among nine teams to be granted a meeting.
Ohtani, 23, is one of the hottest properties in baseball – a two-way threat with a fastball clocked at 100 mph (160.93 km/h) and an explosive presence at the plate.

His move to America had been on hold as Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball worked out a new posting system by which Japanese clubs are compensated for players lured Stateside before they become free agents.

Although his 2017 season with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters was hampered by an ankle injury, in 2016 he put up dazzling numbers, with a 10-4 record and a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings.

At the plate he hit .322 and clubbed 22 home runs.

In 403 games he batted .286 with 48 homers, 166 RBIs and a .859 OPS. As a pitcher, he was 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA in 85 outings (82 starts).

The Nippon Ham Fighters established a posting price at $20 million. Anyone willing to meet the price would get a chance to negotiate within a 21-day window through December 22.

Cashman said he quickly got a sense that the player wasn’t interested in the Yankees.

“Then I got the unfortunate news today that we were out of the picture. That does not mean that anybody East Coast and anybody big market is out of the picture. I can’t speak for them,” he said.

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