Posted on November 23, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
It appears to be only a matter of time until Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani is officially posted for major league teams to bid on his services. With his abilities as both a pitcher and a hitter, virtually every MLB team would love to add him. Of course, some teams want him more than others. One team that appears to be gearing up to make a significant effort to sign Ohtani is the Seattle Mariners.
Marines GM Jerry Dipoto says the team has been preparing for over a year to bid on Ohtani in hopes of bringing him to Seattle. Dipoto has traveled to Japan to personally scout Ohtani. He came away believing that Ohtani is the real deal and a player worth all of the hype he’s received.
“I’ve seen players hit a ball 500 feet and players throw a ball 100 mph,” Dipoto said. “I’ve just never seen one player do both of those.”
Part of the process for Seattle involved a trade last week intended to increase their international bonus money. Right now, the Mariners are nowhere near teams like the Rangers and Yankees that can offer Ohtani a signing bonus of $3.5 million. It’s not a lock that Ohtani will sign with the team offering the largest signing bonus. However, the Mariners are determined not to put themselves at a disadvantage.
“We’re not going to leave a stone unturned in the efforts to do it again if the opportunity arises,” explains Dipoto. “We’ll be responsible in how we do it, but we understand this is a one-time buying opportunity and you have to be prepared. To me, the worst thing we can be is sitting on the sideline being too conservative, sitting on our hands when an opportunity to change the history of the organization comes along.”
The goal for Dipoto and the Mariners is to get a sit-down meeting with Ohtani and his representatives so they can show him all that Seattle could offer him. The club has prepared both video and written presentations for him. Dipoto also believes that the team’s history with Japanese players gives the Mariners one advantage a majority of other big league clubs don’t have when it comes to Ohtani.
“The history of the Japanese player in Seattle has been so celebrated and some of the greatest players in our franchise’s history have been from Japan,” Dipoto said. “There is an attraction there. There has to be, for a player who is as respectful of those who came before him as Shohei Ohtani appears to be.”
Going back to 1998, the Mariners have had at least one Japanese player on their roster every season. Ichiro Suzuki is easily the most famous, while the most recent has been Hisashi Iwakuma. The Mariners are hopeful that they can re-sign Iwakuma for 2018. They also plan on using former Japanese players in their pitch to Ohtani.
“We’re bringing the big guns. We’re bringing the ‘A’ game. When we sit down, we’ll be sitting down with very notable faces and that is a part of what we want to sell,” said Dipoto. “We want to sell the Seattle experience and what it means to the Japanese-Americans, our culture and how this organization has trended so positively when we have the star Japanese player. And make no mistake, this is a star Japanese player. He’s gifted. He’s going to make some team a lot better”
What team signs Ohtani is anyone’s guess at this point. But it’s clear that Seattle isn’t messing around. Dipoto plans to pull out all the stops in order to sign Ohtani. That determination may end up making the Mariners one of the favorites to get him.