Japanese free agent Ohtani nixes Yankees, Red Sox

Japanese free agent Shohei Ohtani ruled out signing with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

The two-way star is popular with several clubs because of his potential as a pitcher and outfielder.

His 21-day negotiating window expires at 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 22 after the Nippon Ham Fighters officially posted him. The expectation is Ohtani prefers a small market or West Coast team but reports emerged Monday that seven teams are still in the hunt for Ohtani, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs.

However, Ken Rosenthal reported Sunday that the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins — both of whom could be small market by most standards and Oakland is decidedly West Coast — were informed they were not in the running.

The San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners are thought to be the favorites for Ohtani.

Only 23, Ohtani is subject to international signing cap rules, limiting the amount a team can pay in his initial contract. Speculation was the Yankees, because of their $3.5 million international slot, could win any bidding war. Clearly, Ohtani is not focused solely on his first deal.

The San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers are also finalists, per Yahoo.

The Mariners have openly discussed their desire to sign the Japanese star and along with the Giants are expected to gain an audience with Ohtani and his representatives in the week ahead.

Though hampered by leg injuries — ankle, quadriceps — last season, Ohtani hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs in 382 plate appearances and threw 140 innings with a 1.86 ERA and 174 strikeouts.

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