Japanese pitcher-hitter Shohei Ohtani has attracted a ton of interest from a wide range of MLB teams this offseason, but many media figures proclaimed loudly that he was destined to wind up with the New York Yankees. However, Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman told reporters Sunday that Ohtani eliminated the Yankees after the first round of presentations. The Mariners and Giants are still reportedly in, as are other West Coast teams and the Cubs, but with the Yankees and Mets out, Ohtani will not be heading to New York. That’s got to be surprising to people like WFAN host Mike Francesa, who, as Funhouse tweeted Sunday, proclaimed last week that “He’s going to wind up on the Yankees.”
Shohei Ohtani has told the #Yankees he will not sign with them. Here's Mike Francesa last week, informing us that Ohtani will definitely be a Yankee.
"You could just see this one a mile away." ? pic.twitter.com/S4CiBCteNk
— Ƒunhouse (@BackAftaThis) December 3, 2017
“I’ll tell you right now, I know people aren’t going to like this, he’s going to wind up on the Yankees. First of all, the draw of the Yankees to those players is enormous, and you could just see this one a mile away. You’ve got Matsui involved, this, you know…he’s going to wind up on the Yankees. I know Yankee haters are going to hate that, but he is going to wind up on the Yankees.”
Francesa was far from the only one making that kind of prediction. Consider what FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman wrote last month:
This is a unique case involving a unique talent, but many Yankee competitors are now viewing them as the supreme favorite to land international sensation Ohtani.
It’s funny, when a player has real free agency, teams like the Yankees and Dodgers have a built-in advantage due to their great revenues and wherewithal. But this is a rare case that is not mostly about money; the current CBA would seem to limit the payout to the international signing bonus a team has left, with the Rangers having the most at $3.5 million and the Yankees next-most at $3.25 million (though the players union, which has yet to approve the new posting system, is still looking to enhance his finances in a potential deal).
…Although every team would happily sign him up for whatever’s left in their bonus money, and no one’s quite conceding, the guess of many seems to be that the Yankees hold some major advantages, beyond that minor monetary edge that represents peanuts in the real value of this amazing talent. While Ohtani wants to play right field and pitch, an American League team, where the DH is a possibility, is seen as having an advantage because it brings the chance to hit as well as pitch.
The other, even bigger, advantage, the Yankees are thought to have is that, well, they are the Yankees, a major, worldwide brand, which brings extra exposure and more earning potential (though Otani hasn’t shown any real interest in money to this point; if he did he’d just wait the two years).
Japanese players are seen as preferring either the Yankees or Dodgers due to the prestige of the league’s respective marquee franchises, and it is no surprise that those two teams have had the most success with Japanese players (the Yankees have had Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka, and the Dodgers Hideo Nomo and Kenta Maeda), which provides some positive history. And in this case, where the player very likely will be signing for something well below his market value, there is an expectation that marketing opportunities will come into play.
“The Yankees are the favorite, there’s no other way to look at it,” one National League executive said.
But Francesa’s comments went well beyond likely to a guarantee. And it’s a guarantee that didn’t work out in this case.
[Funhouse on Twitter]