The Twins will not be involved in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes. At least not directly.
Ohtani’s camp, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, informed the Twins on Sunday that he would not sign with them. So the Twins will not have a chance to negotiate with the 23-year-old Japanese star.
Based on published reports, the seven finalists for Ohtani appear to be the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle, Texas, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco and San Diego. Ohtani, who was posted on Friday, has a 21-day window to negotiate with teams.
But the Twins could still play a role in the sweepstakes. They have $3.245 million in international signing bonus money, the third most of any team. And that money could be traded to a team looking to sweeten the deal for Ohtani.
The Angels on Friday sent minor league lefty Justin Kelly to the Braves for reliever Jim Johnson and $1.21 million in signing bonus money. Angels General Manager Billy Eppler said the money was acquired with an eye toward landing Ohtani.
Indications are that the Twins are willing to help another team pursue Ohtani for a player in return.
Ohtani, who throws 102 miles per hour and hits 450-foot home runs, is ready to test himself in major league baseball as a two-way player. On Friday, owners ratified a new agreement to allow Ohtani to come to MLB next year.
Interested teams have to pay a $20 million posting fee to Sapporo’s Nippon Ham Fighters for the rights to negotiate with Ohtani. And the Twins were ready to put up the $20 million.
The Twins have scouted Ohtani for years and were prepared for this moment. If Ohtani had waited until he’s 25 to come over, he would be able to sign for the biggest offer. Since he’s coming over two years earlier, he’s bound by MLB’s spending limits on international players. Whoever signs him will give him a bonus but then pay him the league minimum after that. He would become eligible for arbitration after three years of service, then a free agent after six years.
But Ohtani also stands to make millions in endorsement income.
It’s an unique opportunity to acquire one of the world’s best young players without having to trade players or offer a nine-figure contract. The Twins wanted in on the race, have a good relationship with his agent, Nez Balelo, and hoped to make their sales pitch.
“We are a young team that’s growing and is developing,” Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said last week. “Quite frankly, in many ways, we are similar to where he would be.”
Now out of the Ohtani hunt, the Twins will focus on adding starting pitching through other means. They are looking at trades as well as the free-agent market. They also are in talks with free-agent relievers to help strengthen their bullpen.