The Texas Rangers’ long pursuit of Shohei Ohtani ended Friday afternoon when the two-way star from Japan selected the Los Angeles Angels as the team with which he will launch his major-league career.
Perhaps the only scenario that could have been worse for the Rangers was if Ohtani had signed with the Houston Astros.
Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, said that market size and money didn’t matter to Ohtani, who in the end felt a bond with the Angels after meeting with them earlier this week.
“We’re disappointed we weren’t Shohei Ohtani’s choice, but wish him the best in Anaheim,” general manager Jon Daniels said, who then added levity to the Rangers’ sorrow. “He impressed us on and off the field at every turn. However, had he asked our opinion, we would have suggested the National League.”
The Rangers play the Angels 19 times in 2018, beginning April 9-11 with a series at Globe Life Park.
They sent eight members of the front office, coaching and scouting staffs to their meeting in Los Angeles on Tuesday, but despite extensive scouting the past six years were unable to lure Ohtani to Arlington.
Daniels expressed gratitude for the work of assistant GM Josh Boyd and Japanese scouts Hajime Watabe and Joe Furukawa for their work on the ground in Japan.
“From there, our scouts worked tirelessly,” Daniels said. “Our front office, medical and development groups put a ton of thought and creativity into how best to utilize a unique talent, how to support him, and what the impact would be on our club.
“Our business side rose to the occasion in a big way. The marketing, production, and graphic arts groups were absolute stars in this process. Their ability to take our vision and package it in a way worthy of the passion behind it was something to behold. I want to thank all of them. I’m proud to be a Ranger because of the people here.”
Ohtani was clearly Plan A this off-season for the Rangers, who now must shift gears and begin calling other free agents. They still need a starting pitcher, and might aim higher with Ohtani in the division.
Jake Arrieta, the former TCU star and Cy Young winner, is available. So is Yu Darvish, who continues to live in Dallas despite being traded by the Rangers to the LA Dodgers on July 31.
Right-hander Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn are also free agents and are less likely to break the Rangers’ bank than Arrieta and Darvish.
The Rangers have signed righty Doug Fister and left-hander Mike Minor as starters in the past two weeks. Because Minor was a reliever last season, it’s possible that the Rangers acquire two starters and use him to bolster a bullpen that was among the league’s worst last season.
No matter what they do, the Rangers must move on.
“We don’t plan to have any further comment on this situation as our efforts are totally focused on improving the club for the 2018 season,” Daniels said.