The pursuit for the Babe Ruth of Japan continues and the Rangers are right in the mix.
The process of elimination for the services of Shohei Ohtani is underway with seven teams still in the running. Out of those seven, the Rangers and Chicago Cubs are the only two that are not on the West Coast. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners also have Ohtani.
The Japanese superstar has until Dec. 22 to make the call on where he’ll sign his first pro contract in the United States. All seven teams have met with Ohtani and made their sales pitch on why he should wear their uniform. Now, the wait begins.
So why is he the cool kid that everybody wants to hang out with?
Ohtani is the rare player who was both a pitcher and a hitter in Japan and grades out high in both. Now the 23-year old wants to do the same thing on the world’s biggest baseball stage to show he’s the real deal.
In 403 career games for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Ohtani had 48 home runs and 166 RBI’s at the plate. On the mound, he went 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA and 624 strikeouts. The fastball was clocked as high as 102 mph and touches triple digits regularly. Combine that with his splitter and slider and the repertoire is just nasty.
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Bottom line- He’s an All-Star in both phases.
So what chance do the Rangers have in landing Ohtani? Well, they made it to the final round of seven over teams such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and world champion Houston Astros. Plus, the rumor that Ohtani likely prefers the small market teams over the big market ones plays helps and could also eliminate the Los Angeles teams in the long run. Add in the fact that the Rangers were one of the teams courting Ohtani out of high school helps present a strong case.
However, Rangers Nation may not feel the same way. According to a recent poll on NBCDFW.com, 57 percent said Texas wouldn’t land Ohtani.
There was a similar feeling in 2012 with a Japanese pitcher named Yu Darvish. Granted, the international rules and posting system was different compared to now but very few gave the Rangers a chance to win the bidding war over teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.
If the magic does happen, you could be looking at a Rangers team with a six-man starting rotation with Ohtani in the mix. Plenty of clubs fell out of the hunt early when they said they weren’t willing to budge on letting him both pitch and hit, eliminating the possibility of seeing something special.
Ohtani’s two-way ability may also lead to something that baseball has never seen. As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News pointed out, that ability would eliminate the need for an extra bat on the bench and make more room available in the bullpen. Keep in mind, the Rangers ran through some pitchers last season in a bullpen that was among the worst in the majors.
And keep in mind, Darvish is a free agent and there’s always the possibility that a deal between him and the Rangers could lead to a reunion. It may sound like crazy talk but there’s a chance.
Could it be déjà vu all over again? Waiting is the hardest part.