(CBS) Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani has chosen his big league destination.
Ohtani will sign with the Angels, his agency announced Friday afternoon. The Cubs had been one of seven finalists for him, having sat down for an in-person presentation with him earlier in the week.
“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,” agent Nez Balelohtani of CAA said in a statement.
“While there has been much speculation about what would drive Shohei’s decision, what mattered to him most wasn’t market size, time zone or league but that he felt a true bond with the Angels.”
Ohtani, a 23-year-old pitcher/outfielder, was the prized free agent of this offseason because of his elite talent, two-way skills and rare contract situation.
Ohtani projects as a front-line starter, with a fastball that touches 102 miles per hour, a sharp breaking ball and a 2.52 ERA in five seasons with the Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan in the second-best professional league in the world. He also boasts prodigious power potential, having hit 22 homers and registered a 1.004 OPS in 104 games in 2016.
Ohtani’s camp made it clear that a crucial factor in his free-agent decision was his new team giving him regular at-bats on days he didn’t pitch, and the American League gives him the opportunity to do that as the designated hitter.
What makes Ohtani’s situation so unique is the the cost benefit. Because he’s under 25, Ohtani was subject to international signing rules, which stipulated a maximum bonus of $3.5 million. The Cubs couldn’t even come close to that, as they only had $300,000 to offer after exceeding their signing bonus pool in the previous collective bargaining agreement. Had Ohtani been an unrestricted big league free agent not subject to international rules, many believe he would’ve received a long-term deal worth around $200 million.
The Angels, who finished 80-82 this past season, will also owe a $20 million posting fee. They’ll have team control of Ohtani for six years.
Ohtani chose the Angels over the Cubs, Mariners, Giants, Rangers, Padres, Angels and Dodgers.