Pittsburgh Pirates: Ohtani and the International Market

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

News: The Pittsburgh Pirates have officially been ruled out of the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes.  So what should they do with their left over budget?

Shohei Ohtani is one of the most sought after Japanese players transitioning to the MLB in recent history.  First off, he is much younger than most players who come to the MLB.  Second, he falls under the international market limitations, meaning he is affordable for every team in the league, not just the big market teams.  With that, the Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the teams who financially had a chance to sign Ohtani.  The Bucs have the fourth highest international budget for the 2017 year.  They currently have $2.25 million, with the Rangers, Yankees, and Twins being the only team to have more to offer.

Unfortunately, Ohtani’s decision is not coming down to money.  He has eliminated the Pittsburgh Pirates, Minnesota Twins, and the New York Yankees as potential suitors.  The reason he eliminated the Yankees, who have the second most bonus money to offer him, is because he wants to play in a smaller market.  Meanwhile, he eliminated the Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins because he prefers to play for a west coast team.

West Coast Bias

He is planing on meeting with seven teams which includes: Dodgers, Mariners, Giants, Angels, Padres, Rangers, and the Cubs.  The Cubs are the only team that seems to be an outlier.  However, being they are one of the better teams in baseball, it likely interests Ohtani to join a World Series contender.  As of now, the Mariners seem to be the most likely destination.  They are a smaller market compared to the other teams, they can allow him to DH, they have a decent amount of bonus money, and of course have the Ichiro connection.

Of course there are many fans and media members who are criticizing the Pirates for not having a chance at Ohtani.  It 100 percent is not the Pittsburgh Pirates front office’s fault.  They most likely offered him their remaining budget of $2.25 million.  What it comes down to is the player has a preference to play where he wants.  Ohtani has made plenty of money in Japan already, and he would rather pick a destination where he feels comfortable playing.  That happen to be the West Coast. The Bucs could have pulled out all the stops for him, but at the end of the day, they are missing out on Ohtani for reasons other than being “cheap”.

International Market

So now that the Pittsburgh Pirates are out of the Ohtani running, what should they do with their remaining $2.25 million?  The Atlanta Braves recently lost 12 prospects due to violating the negotiation process. All 12 are being placed back into the international market, meaning they are subjected to each team’s bonus restrictions.

Of the 12 prospects, four of them earned money north of $1 million from the Braves, including top prospect Kevin Maitan, who received $4.25 million.  All the prospects get to keep their original bonus money from the Braves in addition to their new team’s offer.   The Bucs having the fourth largest amount to spend could allow them to be aggressive on some of these prospects.  Adding a player of Maitan’s caliber would instantly give them another top 100 prospect.

Final Thoughts

It is unfortunate that the Bucs will not have a true chance to sign Ohtani. He seems to project as a future star in this league, whether it is on the mound, at the plate, or both. Still, the Bucs have a lot of money to sign international free agents.  With the Braves losing multiple top signings, the Bucs could look to allocate their $2.25 million in trying to sign one or two of them.