The race for Shohei Ohtani is kicking into high gear.
With the Nippon Ham Fighters' wunderkind officially posted, the 21-day window for him to negotiate with Major League teams has begun. Because he's still subject to the international hard cap, these negotiations will be far less straightforward than the usual free agent bidding war. Many variables will factor into the decision Ohtani makes about where to begin his MLB journey, and from what we can tell, money may not be a high priority.
According to a report by Ken Rosenthal early Monday morning, Ohtani has narrowed his list of candidates down to seven teams, who he will have meetings with this week. Those teams are the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Los Angeles Angels.
What's surprising is that several of these teams are not in a position to give Ohtani much of a signing bonus based on their cap numbers. In fact, only two of them can offer him more than $300k. It's clear that other things mentioned in the questionnaire his agent sent out to the league last week—like player development philosophies, plans for cultural assimilation, and the desirability of living in the team's city—are bigger factors than the number behind the dollar sign.
Besides the money, several assumptions are being made about his decisions. After the New York Yankees were told they were out of the running, GM Brian Cashman implied that Ohtani preferred playing in a smaller market and on the west coast. That view isn't 100 percent accurate, as there are obviously some giant markets in the list (Chicago, Los Angeles), and while most of the teams are west or west-leaning, the Cubs stick out in the Midwest as a major outlier. Given Ohtani's desire to both pitch and hit, it's surprising that National League teams outnumber American League teams, who could give him a "safer" way to hit by playing as the DH on days he doesn't start.
Regardless of what goes into his decision, he's likely to make it soon. Today, we'll go through each of the seven teams on Ohtani's short list, and rate them as to how likely they are to sign the two-way star on a scale of 1-10.