Pursuing Ohtani, Mariners deal for bonus money


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SEATTLE — Jerry Dipoto clearly is leaving no stone unturned in his efforts to lure Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani to Seattle, as the Mariners general manager traded Minor League catcher David Banuelos on Wednesday to the Twins to acquire an additional $1 million in international bonus pool money.

The Mariners already had the second-most available international slot money to use toward the two-way Japanese standout, but they closed that gap a bit with Wednesday’s deal. Texas has $3.535 million in slot money, with the Mariners now bumping their total up to $2.557 million.

The Angels followed suit with a trade of their own with the Twins, adding $1 million as well to bump their available pool to $2.315 million. The other four contending teams — the Cubs, Padres, Giants and Dodgers — are all capped at $300,000 that they can offer.

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Banuelos was the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, per MLBPipeline.com, after being selected in the fifth round of the 2017 Draft out of Long Beach State.

The 21-year-old hit .236 with four home runs and 26 RBIs for Class A Short Season Everett and was selected to play in the Northwest League All-Star Game.

The deal is the second Dipoto has made this offseason to add money to his international bonus pool, having also acquired $500,000 from the White Sox last month in exchange for hard-throwing Minor League reliever Thyago Vieira.

The Mariners are one of seven teams who met with Ohtani and his agents in Los Angeles earlier this week, and they’re awaiting word on what comes next with the 23-year-old two-way standout.

Dipoto spoke with Seattle reporters on Wednesday afternoon regarding next week’s Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., but declined to take any questions regarding Ohtani, as the teams involved all continued to stay mum on the topic.

Money doesn’t seem to be the primary concern for Ohtani, given that the 23-year-old could have stayed in Japan and waited two more years until he was an unrestricted international free agent and made considerably more money. But obviously the teams competing for his services believe it’s enough of a factor that they’re making late pushes to increase their offers.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.