The Boston Red Sox never were in the running to sign Shohei Ohtani last offseason. After a bizarre recruitment saga, the 23-year-old eventually signed with the Los Angeles Angels.
However, the Japanese pitching-hitting phenom nearly joined the Red Sox organization in 2012, according to an article published Monday by WEEI’s Rob Bradford.
Ohtani, then a high school sensation, was one of the biggest names on the international market. And a pair of Red Sox scouts — Jon Deeble and Eddie Romero — were hot on his trail.
“After (meeting with Ohtani), we thought we had a good chance to sign him,” Romero told Bradford.
When asked whether he believed Boston was a favorite to sign Ohtani at that point, Deeble, who now works for the Los Angeles Dodgers, replied, “absolutely.”
“I think from what I understand it would’ve come down to the Red Sox and the Dodgers,” he said. “At that point the Dodgers had a very good relationship with him also through someone who was working for them at the time. The Red Sox were definitely one or two to be able to get him, for sure.”
To say the two men thought highly of Ohtani would be a massive understatement.
“It’s the best pitching report that I’ve ever done,” Romero told Bradford. “At the time, he was the best pitching prospect I had ever seen. He’s got the highest grade I’ve ever given a pitcher.”
“I was there the day he touched 100 mph in a high school game and hit a ball over the batter’s eye on a wet, dreary day,” Deele said. “He stood out from everyone.”
So, what went wrong?
Well, The Yomiuri Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters drafted Ohtani and convinced him to stay in Japan. The team reportedly persuaded Ohtani by highlighting how tough life can be as a minor league baseball player.
“I understood the decision to stay at home, but we were obviously disappointed,” Romero said. “We were hoping to get him. That year he was a clear No. 1 for us on our internal preference list.”
The Red Sox will get a first-hand look at what they missed out on when they play the Angels in Anaheim, Calif., on Tuesday. Ohtani is scheduled to start the game, while Boston will counter with David Price.