Before two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani made his choice not to include the Yankees as a finalist in the derby for the two-way star, Ohtani’s representatives at CAA made pleas to at least give them a longer look, people familiar with the situation said.
The case to consider the Yankees more strongly by CAA included 1) their fine young team, 2) the chance to hit a lot of home runs with their short porch, and 3) the marketing money that could be made as a Yankee in New York via branding opportunities.
However, Ohtani, a small-town guy who’s played for Nippon in Sapporo and obviously isn’t about the money, was having none of it. When Yankees GM Brian Cashman told Yankees media members, including NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty, that the Yankees did not make it to the second round, he said he wished (probably for the first time) that the Yankees were in a smaller city on the West Coast.
Ohtani, 23, is a nice young fellow who’s known to be laser-focused on baseball, and what little extra time he has, he is said to spend inside playing video games. He obviously isn’t about money; he could have made $250 million-plus simply by waiting two years and coming over when he is 25.
The Mariners, Giants and Padres were among the lucky few teams to get through to the next round (the Mariners and Giants inclusion was first reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo and the Padres by FanRag Sports) while at least the Red Sox, Nats, Blue Jays, Rays, Twins, Pirates, A’s, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Braves and Brewers were reported to have been eliminated.
The only non-West Coast teams to be granted meetings were the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported.
There’s a belief the Angels may have made it through, keeping to the West Coast theme, and while there was no word on the Dodgers, people familiar with the situation don’t see them as the likeliest landing spot in the end. There was no immediate word from the Reds, either, leading to some added mystery in a competition that isn’t going as planned.
The Yankees were flat told that Ohtani preferred to play in a smaller city and felt more comfortable on the West Coast (though it isn’t believed he’s spent of great deal of time in any part of the United States). Some were also suggesting, as Jon Morosi of MLB.com first reported, that Ohtani prefers to be the lone Japanese star on a team – though that wasn’t a priority or even a consideration, according to some others.
Among the finalists, the Padres and Angels don’t have Japanese stars while the Mariners’ Hisashi Iwakuma is on a minor-league deal and Mariners people have said in recent days that he won’t be ready for the first several weeks of the season, anyway. The Dodgers, if they have a chance (and if that really matters; we are skeptical it does), have Kenta Meada.
Some who have familiarity with Ohtani’s thinking suggested they believed the Yankees were in the mix several weeks ago, and wonder if Masahiro Tanaka’s decision to remain with the team rather than opt out could have impacted Ohtani’s thinking. From here, that comes under the heading of unfounded speculation, and the real reason Ohtani eliminated the Yankees is the same reason he eliminated other teams on the East Coast and in the Midwest – for whatever reason he prefers it out West.
- What should Shohei Ohtani be asking on his questionnaire?
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