In perhaps the coup of the offseason, the Angels have emerged as the winner of the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes.
Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Baseball, released a statement on Friday revealing that the Japanese two-way phenom has chosen to join the Angels following a wild courtship from all 30 Major League teams. The club will introduce Ohtani during a news conference on Saturday at 3 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium.
"This morning, after a thorough, detailed process, Shohei Ohtani has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels," Balelo said in the statement. "Shohei is humbled and flattered by all the time and effort that so many teams put into their presentations and sincerely thanks them for their professionalism. In the end, he felt a strong connection with the Angels and believes they can best help him reach his goals in Major League Baseball."
The 23-year-old Ohtani, who starred as a right-handed ace and a left-handed slugger in Japan, became the most coveted free agent this offseason after being posted by the Nippon-Ham Fighters last week. The Angels were among seven finalists who were selected to meet with Ohtani, and they made their pitch to him on Monday in Los Angeles.
"While there has been much speculation about what would drive Shohei's decisio he felt a true bond with the Angels," Balelo's statement read. "He sees this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his career goals. More than ever, I believe this is not only a special talent but a man of special character, and like everyone else I'm excited to see him in Major League Baseball."
The Mariners, Rangers, Dodgers, Padres, Cubs and Giants were the other finalists in the Ohtani chase.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels shared his thoughts on Ohtani's decision on Friday evening: "We're disappointed we weren't Shohei Ohtani's choice, but wish him the best in Anaheim. 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 Angels are expected to use the remaining $2.315 million of their international bonus pool to sign Ohtani, and they will pay an additional $20 million posting fee to the Nippon-Ham Fighters. Angels general manager Billy Eppler twice made trades to bulk up the club's budget in an effort to woo Ohtani, including acquiring $1 million in international slot money from the Twins in exchange for outfield prospect Jacob Pearson earlier this week.
Also, as reported by ESPN's Buster Olney, Angels star Mike Trout, who is getting married Saturday and was unavailable for an in-person meeting, was able to FaceTime with Ohtani this week.
The Angels issued the following statement after Ohtani's decision was revealed:
"We are honored Shohei Ohtani has decided to join the Angels organization. We felt a unique connectivity with him throughout the process and are excited he will become an Angel. This is a special time for Angels fans, the Ohtani family, and Nez Balelo and the team at Creative Artists Agency."
Still, money wasn't expected to be a deciding factor in Ohtani's selection, as he could have likely commanded a $200 million contract had he waited two years before coming to the United States as an unrestricted free agent. Because he is under 25, Ohtani is subject to international signing rules, which capped his potential signing bonus at $3.557 million, which was the Rangers' international bonus pool total.
Ohtani will join Garrett Richards at the top of the Angels' starting rotation, which will now be anchored by the two hard-throwing right-handers. The Angels are also expected to insert Ohtani into their lineup as a part-time designated hitter, giving the Halos a left-handed power bat to complement Trout and Justin Upton.
Albert Pujols, who has spent the offseason focused on improving his conditioning, is projected to play more first base next season to create more at-bats for Ohtani.
Ohtani was in line to make an international splash last spring in the World Baseball Classic, but a right ankle injury prevented him from participating. The injury sidelined him for the first half of the season in Japan -- and kept him off the mound for all but five starts -- but he is a scout's dream, with a fastball that hits 100 mph and a slider that compares to MLB's best.
In 2016, his most recent full season, Ohtani posted a 1.86 ERA with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings while hitting .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers in 382 plate appearances as a part-time DH.
In limited duty this year, Ohtani still whiffed more than a batter per inning on the mound while posting a .942 on-base plus slugging percentage at the plate. He recently underwent successful surgery on his injured ankle and is expected to be 100 percent for Spring Training.
Maria Guardado

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