Astros to aggressively pursue Japanese star Shohei Ohtani

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Houston Astros owner Jim Crane said his team will “aggressively” pursue Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani.

On Friday, Major League Baseball cleared the way for its teams to pursue Ohtani, who is a big-time pitcher and hitter. His Japanese team, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters will receive a $20 million release fee for the rights to the 23-year-old star.

“On Ohtani, we’re going to pursue him aggressively,” Crane said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports. “As  aggressive as the rules will allow us.

“He’s going to land in one of the big markets, and we have as good a chance as anybody because we’re a good team.”

The Astros are one of the teams that has only $300,000 available for a signing bonus for Ohtani, far less than many other teams, because they exceeded their pool for international signing bonuses in prior years.

“The Astros are interested in Ohtani along with 29 other teams,” Crane said. “He’s a good pitcher. He’s a good hitter. If you can think about a guy that’s at the top of your rotation and can DH left-handed. Our guys, everybody’s done their math on him.”

Since Ohtani will be signing a minor league contract, his initial salaries are not an issue, and Crane said he is not concerned with having to pay $20 million to get the rights to the Japanese star.

“I think you might remember, some people forget frequently, that I told you, guys that I’d spend the money when we were doing well and when it made good sense,” Crane said.

“We did it with Justin Verlander. We backed up what we say. We consistently will do what we say we’re going to do if it’s good for the team.”

According to Major League Baseball, the window for Ohtani to negotiate with its clubs will expire at 10:59 p.m. (CT) on Dec. 22, 2017.

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