If Shohei Ohtani doesn’t end up a Texas Ranger, it won’t be because Jon Daniels and his team were caught off-guard by a Pop Quiz.
On Sunday, news emerged that the two-way superstar from Japan had sent a questionnaire to all 30 MLB teams asking them to provide answers to—according to the AP—these six prompts:
- An evaluation of Ohtani’s pitching and hitting ability
- An explanation of the team’s player development, medical training and player performance philosophies
- Spring training, minor-league and major-league facilities
- Details for Ohtani’s cultural assimilation
- How the team plans to integrate Ohtani into its organization
- Why the city/franchise is a desirable place to play along with any other relevant “marketplace” characteristics
It’s not clear how much advance notice the teams were given, but Jon Daniels says the Rangers were not caught flat-footed when they received the memo: “Well quite frankly, it’s a process that we’re years into, not days / weeks / months,” Daniels said. “This is a player that has intrigued us at a high level for an extended period of time. Beyond that, I don’t really want to get into specifics. But (it’s) fair to say this isn’t something that just came about since (the questionnaire became) a public topic.”
Daniels also complimented his team, saying “I feel strongly about what we have to offer, and I think our group did really good work in presenting who we are as an organization, and what we have to offer as a community. We’ll await feedback and see what resonates.”
Sure, the Rangers appear to check all the boxes:
– They have shown a willingness to let Ohtani hit and pitch
– Their medical staff was a major contributing factor in Tyson Ross choosing the Rangers over the Cubs last off-season
– Their Spring Training facilities are among the best in the game, and construction on the new Globe Life Field is underway
– They have years of experience in cultural assimilation with Yu Darvish, and were so successful at it that Darvish continues to live in North Texas even after having been traded
– They have an obvious need in the rotation
But the final question is an interesting one: “Why the city/franchise is a desirable place to play along with any other relevant ‘marketplace’ characteristics”.
Desirable to one man is not always desirable to another. This is where Rangers fans should hope that in addition to knowing what Ohtani wants on the field, they also know what is important to the enigmatic superstar off the field.
It certainly isn’t money.
If Ohtani had waited one more year to turn 25 before coming to the big leagues, he stood to make over $200 million on a Major-League contract. Instead, he’s subject to the international signing rules for under-25s, meaning he’s going to max out on a minor-league deal for—at most—$3.535 milion. That number is the amount the Rangers alone can offer.
How very The Universe to give the Rangers a financial advantage on the biggest international superstar in decades, only for this to be the one international superstar who sleeps at the stadium and lives off a $1,000/week allowance from his parents?
Daniels knows Ohtani isn’t a slam-dunk to sign with the highest bidder. But he reminded reporters on Tuesday that Ohtani is far from the only baseball player with non-monetary desires: “There are certainly cases where money is going to drive the decision,” he began. “But this isn’t the only one where it’s not. There are certainly situations where players have similar financial packages to choose from and they’re looking for other elements. Certain guys might like different types of communities, the role being presented (or) just the personal connection with the organization and the leadership there. Every free agent process includes elements of this. At the end of the day, we can only be true to who we are, present ourselves openly and honestly, and let the player make the choice.”
So Daniels is confident that the team has done their homework. And he’s confident that the sales pitch seems like a good fit for the “Japanese Babe Ruth”. But how confident is he that Ohtani will be convinced that Texas is the best fit?
“Tough for me to say,” the usually poker-faced Daniels said, pausing for a few seconds before repeating himself. “Tough for me to say.”
After a longer pause, he reached what sounded like the last five words of the Serenity Prayer: “It’s not our decision, I guess.”