SAN DIEGO — The Padres were the last of the seven teams to meet with two-way Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani, doing so on Tuesday night in Los Angeles, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan. Little else is clear.
What are the Padres’ chances to land Ohtani, who doubles as a hard-throwing right-hander and a power-hitting lefty? What, exactly, is Ohtani looking for in a suitor? When might he make a decision?
All of that remains unclear, as one of the most unique free-agent sagas in recent memory moves into the decision-making stage. The 23-year-old Ohtani has until Dec. 22 to pick a club, and he has reportedly narrowed his list to seven teams — the Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Mariners, Cubs, Rangers and Padres.
San Diego was the last of the seven to meet with Ohtani, after the first six did so on Monday and Tuesday. Afterward, both sides remained tight-lipped on the proceedings — as has been the case throughout. Few details regarding Ohtani’s preferences have emerged.
Nationally, it qualified as a bit of a surprise that the Padres found themselves at the forefront of the Ohtani chatter. Many assumed big-market clubs like the Yankees were the favorites.
Because Ohtani will enter the big leagues before age 25, he’s subject to international signing rules, making him extremely affordable given his impressive skill set. Still, the Padres are limited to $300,000 in the money they can offer as a signing bonus. That stems from a penalty they incurred for exceeding their bonus pool during the 2016-17 international signing period. (The Rangers, for example, could pay him more than $3 million.)
On top of the bonus, Ohtani would enter the big leagues on a rookie-level contract. The team Ohtani chooses must also pay the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters a posting fee of $20 million.
There are a handful of reasons Ohtani and the Padres might end up being a match. Ohtani’s connections to the Padres’ organization have been brought up extensively in the past few days. Former Japanese pitchers Hideo Nomo and Takashi Saito work in the front office in San Diego, and Seiichiro Nakagaki, Ohtani’s former trainer with the Fighters, serves as the club’s director of sports science. Plus, until last season, the Fighters trained at the Padres’ Spring Training facilities in Peoria, Ariz., as part of a deal between the two teams.
Speaking on MLB Network on Monday, Padres general manager A.J. Preller was asked about those connections, and he said they were mostly “overblown.” But in a recruitment process like this one, no stone will be left unturned.