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  • Writer's pictureAryan G

Mark Shapiro on the Wild Chase of Japanese Phenom Shohei Ohtani

Updated: Mar 29

With the regular season just one week away, Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro spoke to the media today and shared details of the team's wild pursuit of Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani back in December.

Shapiro made it very clear the misconception that the Blue Jays aren't able to recruit stars north of the border is incorrect, stating

“It’s not the case. We’re having a conversation with the most pre-eminent free agent in the history of modern baseball and we were among the few teams he’s considering.”

“It’s great to go from that narrative that free agents won’t sign,” Shapiro said. “To bring (George) Springer, (Kevin) Gausman, (Chris) Bassitt, and then (the pursuit of) Ohtani … I mean nine years ago I was told free agents wouldn’t sign here and you have to pay a premium."

Sitting in the same room that Shohei Ohtani once visited Blue Jays fans were finally able to get some transparency from upper management on the Shohei Ohtani Saga.

Mark Shapiro admitted that the pursuit of Ohtani was cool, crediting him for his love of the city of Toronto stating “It was cool on a couple of levels,” It was exciting to see how engaged he was about the city and how clear his understanding was about the meaning of playing for a country. It wasn’t just the anecdotal ‘you guys represent a country.’ It was like this guy had walked around Toronto. He knew neighborhoods he had spent time. He was thoughtful. He appreciated what was unique about Toronto, the same things that we all feel are unique.

“He appreciated the diversity, the international nature, the progressiveness. He appreciated the safety and some of the differentiation from big American cities. He was specifically recognizing those things.

“So from a point of pride from someone else that chose to come there nine years ago and what it has meant to me, it was cool to see a player like him recognize that and genuinely place us at the front of the process.”

Even though being in the hunt and having a consolation prize mindset is admirable, the Ohtani pursuit still had many layers, not all of them favorable. The Jays had money available for one specific player only, as sources claim they were prepared to spend nearly $700 million US.

Shapiro explained that with help from ownership, they were easily able to get the green light to go all in for Ohtani.

“It’s pretty easy,” “Ohtani is a very unique case that generates extreme levels of performance, like a number of wins, beyond any other player. It’s not a simple process."

Ohtani aside, at the end of the day the Blue Jays have decided to double down on their core and their strong belief that this core can win the World Series.

“We’ve got a strong core in place, so we doubled down in the belief of our players. That’s the bottom line.” “Last year was an outlier and also bad luck,” Shapiro said. “It’s a belief in these players and also a belief that there are some core guys who are going to have much better years this year”, Shapiro said.

What's done is done and the Blue Jays are about to figure out what they truly have in this core and if they can truly compete in 2024.

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