(Reuters) – Coveted Japanese pitching and hitting star Shohei Ohtani will sign with the Los Angeles Angels, his agent has told the Major League Baseball team.
The Angels were a surprise winner in the pursuit of the 23-year-old, beating out the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs.
“This morning, after a thorough, detailed process, Shohei Ohtani has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels,” his agent Nez Balelo said in a statement on Friday.
“Shohei is humbled and flattered by all the time and effort that so many teams put into their presentations and sincerely thanks them for their professionalism.”
”What mattered to him most wasn’t market size, time zone or league but that he felt a true bond with the Angels,” Balelo added.
“He sees this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his career goal.”
WANTS TO PITCH AND HIT
Ohtani, who throws right-handed and bats left-handed, plans to be both a pitcher and an outfielder with the Angels.
He posted a 42-15 record with a 2.52 earned run average in five seasons as a pitcher in Japan, and batted .286 with 48 homers and a .500 slugging percentage.
The Angels have until Dec. 22 to sign him under the terms of Major League Baseball’s posting agreement with Nippon Professional Baseball. They have $2.315 million in international pool money to sign Ohtani.
They also will send a $20 million posting fee to Ohtani’s Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters.
“We are honored Shohei Ohtani has decided to join the Angels Organization,” the American League team said in a statement. “We felt a unique connectivity with him throughout the process and are excited he will become an Angel. This is a special time.”
It is rare in the major leagues to excel as both a pitcher and hitter, but two players who did say Ohtani will have the chance.
“He’ll be handled with kid gloves, but I‘m thinking a guy that’s going to put that kind of strain on his arm by swinging the bat and pitching, his body will start to break down at some point,” Brooks Kieschnick told MLB.com. “It’s good that he’s 23. He can probably handle it for a while.”
Kieschnick, who played for the Milwaukee Brewers, was the last player to pitch and hit at the same time in the majors which he did in 2003-04.
John Van Benschoten, who was a power hitter and relief pitcher in college and made it to the majors for 26 games in stints in 2004, ‘07 and ‘08, said a major challenge awaits Ohtani.
“He’s got a fluid, athletic, explosion thing going on,” Van Benschoten told MLB.com “He’s long, athletic and explosive. It’s different. But it’ll still be very, very tough.”
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Toby Davis