MLB Column: Hot stove ready to percolate as Ohtani’s decision looms

 In this Nov. 19, 2015, file photo, Japan's starter Shohei Otani pitches against South Korea during the first inning of their semifinal game at the Premier12 world baseball tournament at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Toru Takahashi, File)


The hot stove has been ice cold, but don’t expect that to last. Most teams are waiting for international star free agent Shohei Ohtani to choose a club, but he has met with the seven teams he said he was interested in.

The teams who were able to meet with Ohtani are the Cubs, Dodgers, Mariners, Giants, Padres, Angels and Rangers. His decision to not include the Yankees on his list made headlines, causing the New York Daily News’ back page to say, “What A Chicken.”

It is believed that Ohtani prefers to sign with a small market team on the West Coast, despite also having interest in two East Coast teams (Rangers and Cubs). Ohtani’s former team, the Nippon-Ham Fighters, trained in Arizona, which is where all seven of the teams he is interested in train as well.

The only notable free agent signings in the offseason so far include pitchers Mike Minor and Doug Fister signing with the Rangers and catcher Wellington Castillo joining the White Sox. Not exactly an eye-popping list, but that is because teams are waiting on Ohtani to sign and NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton to be traded.

It is quite simple to see why nearly every team is interested in the unproven commodity with star potential. He is a filthy pitcher and a superb hitter who will not be eligible for a wealthy contract due to international cap rules.

Ohtani saw limited action due to a left-thigh injury, which caused his stats to suffer a bit. However, in 2016 as a pitcher in 20 starts and one relief appearance, he had a 10-4 record with a 1.86 ERA and a .957 WHIP. At the dish, he was no ordinary pitcher; he clubbed 22 homers with 67 RBI’s to go with a .322 batting average in 323 at bats.

An American League team would likely make the most sense for Ohtani, given that he could DH, which he has done each of the past three seasons. However, of the seven teams he listed, four of them are in the National League. So, it’s possible Ohtani is interested in playing in the outfield.

It is reasonable to think Ohtani will decide on a team by next week. Once that happens, expect multiple free agents to find new teams quickly. Stars like outfielders J.D. Martinez and Lorenzo Cain as well as pitchers Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish are in line to receive large paydays.


Michael Logan is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at michael.logan@uconn.edu.