Report: Nolan Ryan could leave the Rangers soon

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UPDATE: I’m in Surprise today at Rangers camp. I just hung out in the Rangers clubhouse for a while. Everyone is proceeding in a business as usual way, but a lot of people — not players — are of the distinct impression that something messed up is afoot in the Rangers’ front office. This jibes pretty well with the report from this morning. The sense here is that either the Rangers’ owners or Jon Daniels needs to say something about Nolan Ryan’s status sooner rather than later because (a) there is too much uncertainty now; and (b) Ryan is not the person who should have to say that, no, he is not being squeezed out.

Fascinating.

8: 19 AM: This would be something of a big deal. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting that Nolan Ryan could leave the Texas Rangers soon, possibly by the end of Spring Training.

The report is based on the announcements over the weekend that GM Jon Daniels has been promoted to president of baseball operations and that and that Rick George has been promoted to president of business operations. The Star-Telegram says that while Ryan’s title with the team is still CEO, Daniels now has final say over all baseball decisions and George the final say over business decisions, which would seem to leave little room for Ryan. They also report, however, that these moves happened in November internally even though they were just announced this weekend.

Team co-owner Bob Simpson denies that any changes are afoot, so this could all be hooey. But if there really were moves to squeeze Nolan Ryan out, it’s not the sort of thing you’d figure anyone would want to go on record to say.

Worth watching.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.