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Shohei Ohtani to sign with the Angels

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Japanese star Shohei Ohtani is going to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The news was reported first by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, who tweeted out a statement from Nez Balelo, Ohtani’s agent. The statement reads as follows:

This morning, after a thorough, detailed process, Shohei Ohtani has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels. Shohei is humbled and flattered by all the time and effort that so many teams put into their presentations and sincerely thanks them for their professionalism. In the end, he felt a strong connection with the Angels and believes they can best help him reach his goals in Major League Baseball. I want to thank the clubs and everyone else for respecting our intent to make this very important process as private as possible. We were resolved to having a fair, methodical process. Teams clearly put in a lot of work, and we are grateful for that.

Ohtani is one of the best, youngest and most unique talents to ever come out of Japan. He’s only 23 but has already established himself as both an ace pitcher and a star slugger, with a 42-15 record with an ERA of 2.52 and a K/BB ratio of 624/200 in 543 innings while batting .286 with 48 home runs and 166 RBI in 1,140 plate appearances. He has made it clear that he wants to both pitch and hit in the majors, as he did in Japan.

The Angels have $2.315 million in international pool money to give Ohtani. That was the third largest pool, behind the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners. Seattle had, in particular, been seen as pushing hard for Ohtani and was among the first clubs to publicly state that they would accommodate his wishes to be a two-way player. That the Mariners not only lost out on Ohtani but lost out on him to a division rival that used to employ their current GM, Jerry Dipoto has to be a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

There has been less reported about the Angels plans for Ohtani, though given that they had less money to offer, you have to assume Ohtani liked what he heard about their plans for him. As it is, he clearly has a place in their starting rotation, which is currently manned by number one starter Garrett Richards, who only pitched 27 innings last year, and a host of other often-injured starters like Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney.

To the extent Ohtani gets at bats, they could come at the expense of either DH Albert Pujols, who was among the worst hitters in all of baseball last year, or first baseman C.J. Cron, who posted an OPS+ of only 99 last season. Ohtani could also see time backing up or subbing for corner outfielders Justin Upton and Kole Calhoun.

We’re likely to hear far more about the Angels plans for him in the coming days. In the meantime, welcome to America Shohei Ohtani.

Astros, Nationals set to face off in the World Series starting Tuesday

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Saturday night’s wild ALCS finale will live in the mind of Astros and Yankees fans for a long, long time, but the Astros only have two days to bask in it because they have other business to attend to: the Washington Nationals, who they will host Tuesday evening in Game 1 of the World Series.

For the Astros, this year’s World Series presents the chance to forge a dynasty. To carry on a journey in which they’ve risen from a three-time 100-loss club to a three-years-straight 100-win club with not just one, but two World Series titles in the space of those three seasons.

For the Nationals, the World Series presents an opportunity to complete a pretty compelling narrative in which they’ve grown stronger as the year has gone on: from a near disastrous 19-31 start, to a late, come-from-behind victory in the Wild Card Game, to beating the favored Dodgers in the NLDS to simply dominating the Cardinals in the NLCS. The Nats are nobody’s Cinderella, but a win over the Astros would certainly make them one of the more notable giant-killers in recent memory. And, of course, would give them their first World Series title in franchise history and the city of Washington its first World Series winner since the Senators won it in 1924.

We’ll break down this Series in greater detail over the next couple of days, but for now it’s worth noting that this matchup presents us with, arguably, the best possible group of starting pitchers in the game. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin are six of the top — what? — 15 starting pitchers going right now? And Aníbal Sanchez has been pitching pretty dang good for Washington of late as well. Bullpenning is all the rage these days — and Houston’s Game 6 win was a bullpen affair — but there is something classic and compelling about a handful of aces facing off in October.

The difference-maker could very well be an Astros offense that — last night’s José Altuve walkoff blast notwithstanding — has, somehow, gone relatively quiet this postseason. Postseason pitching is always tough — and in beating the Rays and Yankees they faced two of the best bullpens going — but their collective 3.7 runs per game and .645 team OPS is very un-Astro-like. To beat the Nats, they’ll definitely want to see those numbers go higher.

For Washington, it’ll be about figuring out how to beat Gerrit Cole, Game 1’s starter, and Justin Verlander, who will likely go in Game 2. They’ll have to face each of those 20-game winners/Cy Young contenders twice if this series goes long. That seems daunting, but so too did climbing out of the hole they found themselves in in late May and beating the Dodgers in a five-game series. The Nats have dealt pretty well with “daunting” thus year and, at the moment, they’re playing their best baseball of the season.

So the stage is set. Washington vs. Houston in the 115th edition of the Fall Classic. Things get underway just after 8PM Eastern on Tuesday evening when Gerrit Cole fires in a near-100 m.p.h. fastball to Trea Turner. Stay with us over the next three days for our breakdown of what looks to be an epic matchup.