Christmas comes early! Japanese star Shohei Ohtani signs with Angels

The Angels got the biggest offseason news in years on Friday.

Nez Balelo, the agent of Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani, said the right-handed pitcher/outfielder/left-handed slugger will sign with the Angels after a fairly short courting process.

The club later confirmed the exciting news later on Friday and announced Ohtani’s first media appearance on Saturday at 3p.

“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,” Balelo said in a statement.

The club can now pair the 23-year-old Ohtani, the 2016 Japanese MVP, with two-time American League Most Valuable Player Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun to make LA’s outfield one of the best in MLB.

Ohtani (6-foot-3, 189 pounds) can also give the pitching staff, injury prone (Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, Huston Street) over the past few seasons, a boost as well.

Ohtani will agree to minor-league deal and will receive around a $2.3-million signing bonus, the largest offered by an MLB club.

Ohtani will be formally introduced at a news conference later in the month.

Ohtani has ample opportunity to fulfill his biggest ambitions with the Angels, who are in need of a top starting pitcher. They should also be able to fit him into their lineup when he isn’t pitching: Pujols has largely been a designated hitter for the past two seasons, but the three-time NL MVP is expected to be healthy enough to play first base more frequently in 2018.

Ohtani was coveted by every team because of his exceptional pitching talent and powerful bat, but also because he represents an extraordinary bargain due to baseball’s rules around international players.

The Angels will have to pay the $20 million posting fee to Ohtani’s previous club, the Nippon Ham Fighters, but Ohtani will not be paid a huge salary for the next three seasons. Ohtani will sign a minor league contract and can receive up to $2,315,000 in international bonus money from the Angels.

Ohtani likely could have received a deal worth more than $100 million if he had waited two years to move stateside, but Ohtani wasn’t interested in delaying his progress for money.

Ohtani is likely to have an immediate spot in the front of the rotation for the Angels, who have endured brutal injuries to their starting pitchers for two seasons.

Los Angeles’ ostensible ace is Garrett Richards, but he has been limited to 62 1/3 innings over the past two seasons due to major injuries. The rotation also currently includes Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs, who have all dealt with major injury setbacks recently.

Ohtani was 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA this year, but was slowed by thigh and ankle injuries. He hit .332 in 65 games with eight homers and 31 RBIs.

But those numbers don’t indicate the incredible potential seen in Ohtani, whose fastball has been clocked above 100 mph. While he has occasionally struggled with control, Ohtani is widely thought to be a surefire big-league pitching prospect.

Social media reaction to Shohei Ohtani signing with Angels

The Angels have missed the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons, but Ohtani’s arrival is only the latest in a series of big moves for Eppler, who is determined to build a World Series contender during the remaining three years on Trout’s contract.

Shortly after the World Series ended, the Angels secured a five-year, $106 million deal with left fielder Justin Upton, a late-season trade acquisition. Upton is an ideal solution to years of underperformance in left field for the Angels, who have been carried offensively by Trout.

Earlier this week, Eppler bolstered his much-improved farm system by signing 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan, a coveted prospect considered the best of 13 players recently taken away from the Atlanta Braves for violating international signing rules.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report