Officials with the Texas Rangers, including general manager Jon Daniels, have traveled to Los Angeles for a meeting with Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani, according to multiple baseball sources.
The sources were inconclusive on if the Rangers met with Ohtani and agent Nez Balelo on Monday or flew in ahead of a Tuesday face-to-face, but were definitive in saying that the Rangers have a meeting scheduled with the prize of the free-agent market and are “all-in” on landing him.
Ohtani trimmed his list of suitors to seven and reportedly has already met with the San Francisco Giants. The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs reportedly are the others in the Ohtani sweepstakes.
Daniels and another Rangers official did not return messages seeking confirmation on where they stand with Ohtani, a star right-handed pitcher and left-handed-hitting slugger in Nippon Professional Baseball.
He was posted Friday by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters but had already started the process of finding his MLB team by asking the 30 clubs to present information on seven topics.
Among them was their evaluation of Ohtani as a pitcher and a hitter, and the Rangers have discussed ways they can help him be a two-way player in the majors. A source said that Elvis Andrus makes an appearance in a Rangers video presentation, speaking Japanese in a light-hearted cameo.
Ohtani has until 10:59 p.m. Dec. 22 to pick the team he wants. It’s possible that he decides in advance of the deadline and is introduced next week during the annual winter meetings.
The Rangers have taken steps to fill out their rotation as they wait on Ohtani. They signed right-hander Doug Fister last week to a one-year, $4 million deal and have agreed to a multiyear deal with left-hander Mike Minor, who could transition back to starting after spending 2017 as an effective reliever for the Kansas City Royals.
Aside from his talent, Ohtani is coveted because of how affordable he will be. Because he is only 23 years old, he is required to sign under the rules for international free agents younger than 25.
The Rangers can offer him the largest bonus ($3.53 million) among the finalists, who must agree to a $20 million posting fee, but Ohtani will be brought into an organization on a minor-league contract. Once he is added to an active major-league roster, he will be paid the minimum salary of $545,000.
Should the Rangers miss on Ohtani, they could pursue a number of international players who were made free agents last week as a result of punishment handed out to the Atlanta Braves for transgressions in Latin America.
MLB.com reported that the Rangers have told agents for those players that they like their chances to sign Ohtani and are holding off before extending offers to any other international free agents.