Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani has apparently ruled out the New York Yankees as he prepares to decide where he will play in the major leagues.

In what amounts to a five-star recruiting process, Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani has been casually courting all 30 MLB teams over the past few weeks. With his posting process worked out between the American and Japanese leagues, Ohtani will be coming over to the United States next season, and he is essentially free to sign with whichever team he desires.

Ohtani must be treated like an international amateur because of his age, and is not able to receive a massive bonus. The most he can sign for is approximately $3.5 million, meaning the team that signs him is only on the hook for about $25 million after the posting fee. For a potential superstar on the mound and at the plate, that is an absolute steal.

The New York Yankees have been gearing up to make Ohtani a max offer by acquiring additional bonus money via the trade market. Now, it appears those efforts will be for naught. Ohtani’s representatives have informed the Yankees he will not be signing with them.

This is a major development in one of the most interesting international pursuits in MLB history. The smart money would have been on the Yankees heading into this weekend, but it appears Ohtani has placed his priorities differently. The 23-year-old apparently desires a smaller market, especially on the West Coast. Ohtani has also stated that he would prefer to play for a team without an established Japanese star. With Masahiro Tanaka under contract, that also works against the Yankees.

With these developments, the smart money should be on the Mariners to land the most coveted Japanese import since Ichiro Suzuki (who also signed with Seattle). It makes sense for him to select the Mariners for many reasons. Seattle has plenty of bonus money in their coffers, a high Japanese population but no Japanese star, the American League would allow him the opportunity to DH between starts on the mound, the Mariners also have a history of handling stars from Japan and helping them transition to the United States and their home park is very pitcher-friendly.

The pursuit and recruitment have been an intrigue-filled process, but all the signs point to Ohtani becoming the latest in a long line of Japanese imports for the Seattle Mariners. Meanwhile, the Yankees are still free to spend the rest of their international bonus money on big names, and could emerge as the favorites to sign former Atlanta Braves prospect Kevin Maitan, whose contract was just voided by the league.

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