baseball

Otani to join Los Angeles Angels

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Shohei Otani has decided he's on the side of the Angels.

The Japanese two-way star announced Friday he will sign with the Los Angeles Angels, ending the sweepstakes surrounding his move to the majors in a surprising destination.

Otani turned down interest from every other big-league club to join two-time MVP Mike Trout and slugger Albert Pujols with the Angels, who are coming off their second consecutive losing season and haven't won a playoff game since 2009.

But the Angels' combination of a promising core and a beautiful West Coast location clearly appealed to the 23-year-old Otani, who has confounded baseball experts at almost every step of his move to North America as one of the most coveted free agents in years.

Otani's agent, Nez Balelo, issued a statement Friday announcing the decision. Balelo said the 2016 Japanese MVP "felt a true bond with the Angels. He sees this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his career goals."

After his unusual courtship, Otani will attempt to chart an even more unique career path as the majors' first regular two-way player in several decades. Otani already has drawn numerous comparisons to Babe Ruth, who excelled as a hitter and a pitcher early in his Hall of Fame career.

Otani is expected to be both a starting pitcher and a left-handed designated hitter for the Angels, who intend to give him ample playing time in both roles.

Many baseball observers have long assumed Otani would choose a higher-profile franchise such as the Yankees or Dodgers, who would have both welcomed him into their rotation and lineup. He received serious attention from Seattle and Texas, who both could have given him more money than the Angels.

Otani listened to final pitches from several teams in Los Angeles earlier this week before making his choice. The Angels play about 28 miles from downtown LA in laid-back Orange County, where most of the Angels live in coastal Newport Beach and enjoy a comfortable, warm-weather lifestyle with ample big-market media attention, but without the withering scrutiny of other top destinations.

But Angels general manager Billy Eppler is very serious about winning, and he has spent several years scouting Otani, ever since his previous job with the Yankees.

"We are honored Shohei Otani has decided to join the Angels organization," the franchise said in a brief statement. "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."

Otani will be formally introduced at a news conference later in the month.

Otani has ample opportunity to fulfill his biggest ambitions with the Angels, who are in need of a top starting pitcher. They should also be able to fit him into their lineup when he isn't pitching: Pujols has largely been a designated hitter for the past two seasons, but the three-time NL MVP is expected to be healthy enough to play first base more frequently in 2018.

Otani was coveted by every team because of his exceptional pitching talent and powerful bat, but also because he represents an extraordinary bargain due to baseball's rules around international players.

The Angels will have to pay the $20 million posting fee to Otani's previous club, the Nippon Ham Fighters, but Otani will not be paid a huge salary for the next three seasons. Otani will sign a minor league contract and can receive up to $2,315,000 in international bonus money from the Angels.

Otani likely could have received a deal worth more than $100 million if he had waited two years to move stateside, but Otani wasn't interested in delaying his progress for money.

Otani is likely to have an immediate spot in the front of the rotation for the Angels, who have endured brutal injuries to their starting pitchers for two seasons.

Los Angeles' ostensible ace is Garrett Richards, but he has been limited to 62 1/3 innings over the past two seasons due to major injuries. The rotation also currently includes Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs, who have all dealt with major injury setbacks recently.

Otani was 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA this year, but was slowed by thigh and ankle injuries. He hit .332 in 65 games with eight homers and 31 RBIs.

But those numbers don't indicate the incredible potential seen in Otani, whose fastball has been clocked above 100 mph. While he has occasionally struggled with control, Otani is widely thought to be a surefire big-league pitching prospect.

The Angels have missed the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons, but Otani's arrival is only the latest in a series of big moves for Eppler, who is determined to build a World Series contender during the remaining three years on Trout's contract.

Shortly after the World Series ended, the Angels secured a five-year, $106 million deal with left fielder Justin Upton, a late-season trade acquisition. Upton is an ideal solution to years of underperformance in left field for the Angels, who have been carried offensively by Trout.

Earlier this week, Eppler bolstered his much-improved farm system by signing 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan, a coveted prospect considered the best of 13 players recently taken away from the Atlanta Braves for violating international signing rules.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

11 Comments
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AFAIK, there's no age obstacle in MLB except 18 years of age

(For ex: Derek Jeter didn't even go to college - he signed a minor league contract right out of high school)

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He will be a Caliif. resident. He can attend Calif. St. Univ. Fullerton in off season, then get degree to skip age obstacle. Every the other major league teams have CSU F aluminis.

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@Laguna: First, it was Anaheim Angels when Walt Disney told Autry to create own field Instead of renting Dodgers field only when Dodgers are on tour. Autry listened to Disney. Several years ago, it became CALIFORNIA ANGELS But now Los Angeles Angels. I say (Angels) only because I don't know what new name will be. Maybe Laguna Angels? Some top players live in Laguna Beach.

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Good landing. Hope he can fit in & contribute.

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Damn. Now I'm gonna have to learn how to explain "Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles" in Japanese. (It's difficult enough in English.)

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As a Nats fan, I'm just thrilled that he didn't end up with the Dodgers or Cubs.

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I hope that our resident Angels fan Toshiko is in heaven over this move.

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I'm so happy! As a lifelong Angels/season ticket holder. Angels always lose out on the big name Japanese pitchers from Irabu to Matsuzaka to Darvish. The great news also is that they'll probably broadcast many Angels games on BS1 which I only get to watch if Angels play Yankees, Dodgers or Marlins.

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Otani likely could have received a deal worth more than $100 million if he had waited two years to move stateside, but Otani wasn't interested in delaying his progress for money.

Kudos to him, doesn't happen much these days. Sports stars follow the money even if that means playing in a cr***y league at bottom of the table clubs/franchises.

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For funs, its food consessions provide delicios meals and inexpensive. I hope this is final.

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Last season, sometime Albert played first base and on line up, he made funs laugh by stealing to second base ooonce in a while. If Trout is batting second, Obtain will be third before Albert. Good for him is Angels raise players paychecks more than contracts every year. He can enjoy Disneylands andKnott's Burry Farm,too.

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