Angels' signing of Shohei Ohtani adds intrigue to AL West
Despite winning the World Series and being poised to contend for years to come, the Astros were never perceived in the industry as a top candidate to land two-way Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani, the most coveted player of this baseball offseason.They will see plenty of him https://www.rangersproteamstore.com/Rangers_Russell_Wilson_Jersey-155, though.While it won't alter the Astros' status as the heavy favorites to repeat atop the American League West standings in 2018, Ohtani's surprising decision Friday to sign with the Los Angeles Angels adds a ton of intrigue to the division that was baseball's most lopsided in 2017. The so-called Babe Ruth of Japan joining forces with Mike Trout in Anaheim will make the Angels a must-watch next season at ballparks across the country. The hard-throwing righthander with frontline starter potential immediately upgrades a rotation besieged by injuries in recent years. His powerful lefthanded bat adds length to an already potent lineup. Ohtani's decision had an obvious ripple effect throughout the AL West, which the Astros won by 21 games last year. It was a significant blow to the Seattle Mariners, who at least publicly were the most aggressive team in pursuit of the 23-year-old. It was also a lost opportunity for the Texas Rangers, who were also one of the seven finalists in the Ohtani sweepstakes.Both the Mariners and Rangers must now turn elsewhere, to free agency or a trade, to fill their rotation needs. Meanwhile, the biggest bargain of the winter heads to Southern California. And in a division in which four teams are chasing the Astros, the Angels could emerge as the biggest threat to last year's champs. The Astros will get their first look at Ohtani early next season. The Angels first visit Minute Maid Park in 2018 on April 23 through 25 and then twice more late in the season Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 and Sept. 21 to 23. With Ohtani, the Angels are primed to improve on their 80-82 record from last season, one in which they missed Trout for six weeks because of a thumb injury and received only six starts from their best pitcher, Garrett Richards. They will return both in addition to outfielder Justin Upton, shortstop Andrelton Simmons and designated hitter Albert Pujols.The Angels might not be done, either. With Trout under contract for only three more seasons https://www.rangersproteamstore.com/Rangers_Custom_Jersey-6, Angels general manager Billy Eppler could push his chips to the middle of the table this winter and acquire further upgrades. Los Angeles still has needs at second base, in its rotation and bullpen.The Astros, of course, return almost their entire lineup and rotation https://www.rangersproteamstore.com/Rangers_Rougned_Odor_Jersey-144, which will feature a full season of Justin Verlander. They are in the market to acquire an impact reliever but even if they didn't make a single move this offseason, they would enter 2018 as the AL West favorites.Regardless of how the rest of the offseason unfolds, Ohtani's first season stateside will be one of the most interesting storylines of 2018.If he had waited until he was 25 years old to come to the United States, he probably would've made in excess of $200 million on the open market.But because he was subject to international signing guidelines, Ohtani will make the major league minimum of roughly $545,000 for the next three seasons plus a signing bonus expected to be $2.315 million.The Angels will also pay a $20 million posting fee to Ohtani's Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, in the transaction. It's an incredibly low cost for a player of this magnitude, a potentially transcendent player who will make for a much more interesting AL West in the years to come.