Shohei Ohtani gives Rays, others a holiday weekend surprise – homework

Shohei Ohtani has starred as a pitcher and hitter in Japan. [ZUMA PRESS]
Shohei Ohtani has starred as a pitcher and hitter in Japan. [ZUMA PRESS]
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The Rays have been working hard for several months trying to find out everything they can – on- and off-the-field – about Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese two-way star who is the most sought-after free agent of the winter.

But this weekend, they – and the other interested teams – were working hard to tell Ohtani what he wanted to know about them.

The unsual courtship took an interesting turn Friday when Ohtani's agent – Nez Balelo of CAA baseball – sent what amounted to a detailed questionnaire to all interested teams.

Teams were asked, according to the Associated Press, "to evaluate Ohtani's talent as a pitcher and as a hitter; to explain its player development, medical training and player performance philosophies and facilities; to describe its minor league and spring training facilities; to detail resources for Ohtani's cultural assimilation into the team's city; to demonstrate a vision for how Ohtani could integrate into the team's organization; and to tell Ohtani why the team is a desirable place to play."

Answers were to be provided in English and Japanese, and to be returned as soon as possible. Also, teams were instructed to not make mention of financial terms.

Ohtani, 23, is expected to officially go on the market by the end of this week. MLB owners are expected to approve the rules of the posting system on Friday, and a 21-day window to negotiate with and sign Ohtani would open later Friday or Saturday.

Under the rules expected to be in play, teams will have to pay a $20-million posting fee to Ohtani's Nippon Ham Fighters, then negotiate a deal with Ohtani. But they will be limited by the international spending caps, with the Rangers currently having the most available money, $3,535,000. Even in a best-case scenario no team could offer more than $10-million.

The Rays are hoping their focus on development and willingness to let top draft pick Brendan McKay work as both as a pitcher and hitter will appeal to Ohtani, who is said to be motivated as much by circumstance as the money. The  Yankees, Rangers, Twins, Pirates, Mariners and Dodgers are among others considered very interested.

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