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Japanese star pitcher-hitter Shohei Ohtani to join Angels

Shohei Otani’s fastball has been clocked at 102 miles per hour.
Shohei Otani’s fastball has been clocked at 102 miles per hour.AP Photo/Toru Takahashi file

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Shohei Ohtani has decided he’s on the side of the Angels.

The Japanese two-way star announced Friday he will sign with the Los Angeles Angels, ending the sweepstakes surrounding his move to the majors in a surprising destination.

Ohtani turned down interest from every other big-league club to join two-time MVP Mike Trout with the Angels, who are coming off their second consecutive losing season and haven’t won a playoff game since 2009.

But the Angels’ combination of a promising young core and a beautiful West Coast location clearly appealed to the 23-year-old Ohtani, who has confounded baseball experts at almost every step of his move to the majors.

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Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, issued a statement Friday announcing that the prized two-way player had chosen the Angels over a field of finalists including Seattle and Texas, who could have given him more money.

Balelo said the 2016 Japanese MVP ‘‘felt a true bond with the Angels. He sees this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his career goals.’’

‘‘We are honored Shohei Ohtani has decided to join the Angels organization,’’ the team said in a statement. ‘‘We felt a unique connectivity with him throughout the process.’’

Ohtani is expected to be both a starting pitcher and a designated hitter for the Angels, who have said he will get ample playing time. Albert Pujols has largely been a designated hitter for the past two seasons, but the slugger is expected to be healthy enough to play first base more frequently in 2018.

Several teams made pitches to Ohtani earlier this week in Los Angeles before he chose the Angels, who play about 28 miles from downtown LA in Orange County.

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.

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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. Ohtani will sign a minor league contract and can receive up to $2,315,000 in international bonus 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 62⅓ innings over the past two seasons due to major injuries.

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 at 102 miles per hour. While he has occasionally struggled with control, Ohtani is widely thought to be a surefire big league pitching prospect.

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 general manager Billy Eppler.

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.

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

Stanton narrows field

Giancarlo Stanton has narrowed the teams he will consider joining to the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, and Astros, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported.

The Giants and Cardinals had reportedly been close to agreeing on compensation with the Marlins for the slugging outfielder, but both clubs announced Friday that he had declined to waive his no-trade clause to join them.

“We had an agreement to acquire Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins, subject to him waiving his no-trade clause,” the Cardinals’ statement said. “We have been notified that he will not waive his no-trade clause to come to St. Louis. While we are disappointed in his decision, we will continue to make every effort to improve our club for the upcoming season.”

The Giants said in a statement: “Our agreement with the Marlins to acquire Giancarlo Stanton subject to his waiving of the no-trade clause will not move forward and it is our understanding that the Marlins and Stanton are exploring other options.”

It is not known if any of the four teams on his approved list have spoken to the Marlins.

Stanton is still owed $295 million over the final decade of his record $325 million, 13-year contract. Stanton is due to make $25 million in 2018 after he led the majors with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs last season.

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San Francisco and St. Louis had been considered among the favorites to acquire Stanton, whose affinity and ties to Los Angeles also made the Dodgers a top destination — not to mention their five straight NL West titles and runner-up World Series finish.

The eight-year veteran has never played on a winning team, and Stanton has said he didn’t want to endure another rebuilding of the Miami roster.

Cashman close on deal Brian Cashman and the Yankees are closing in on a five-year, $25 million extension, according to a report in USA Today. Cashman has served in his current role since February 1998. Though Cashman’s contract expired on Oct. 31, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has said that a new agreement was in the process of being negotiated. The reported figures represent a raise from Cashman’s most recent contract, which is believed to have been worth approximately $9 million over three years . . . The Tigers agreed to a major league deal with veteran righthander Mike Fiers. The 32-year-old Fiers made 28 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros this year, going 8-10 with a 5.22 ERA. He struck out 146 in 153⅓ innings. Fiers was not included on any of Houston’s postseason rosters.