OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 02: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels looks on during the game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on Saturday, September 2, 2023 in Oakland, California.
Photo by Loren Elliott/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Shohei Ohtani Sweepstakes Have a New Frontrunner

With Shohei Ohtani set to become an unrestricted free agent once the World Series ends, one New York team is making its desire for the Japanese megastar well known — and it isn't the New York team you might expect.

According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, the New York Mets have emerged as major suitors in the Ohtani sweepstakes — and are gearing up to make Ohtani an offer he can't refuse.

"Look, this is going to be the offseason of Shohei Ohtani," Passan said via X. "And I think the Mets are going to be right in the middle of things with him. They have the most money, they have the owner who is most willing to spend."

Yet, Passan also noted that while the Mets surely want Ohtani in New York, the feeling might not be mutual. 

"The question is: does Ohtani want to deal with all that being in New York entails?" Passan said. "Even though he was in the Los Angeles area, he was sheltered from media stuff. He was coddled, he could do whatever he wanted."

Despite Ohtani's potential aversion toward New York's ruthless media corps, Passan still expects the Mets to be "front and center" in the race to sign him.

The 2023 free agent class is among the weaker ones in recent years, aside from Ohtani. So the Mets — who went 75-87 and missed the playoffs in 2023, despite having one of the MLB's more talented rosters — can (and seemingly will) go all-in to have Ohtani in blue and orange by 2024 opening day.

However, as usual, the Mets could have to compete with their cross-town rival in landing Ohtani. 

"I don't think the Yankees are going to be involved," Passan noted. "But they're the Yankees; so, honestly, I'm never going to count them out."

What's for sure is that both New York clubs are among just a few teams that currently have the payroll to give Ohtani the massive contract he'll demand this offseason. In addition to the two New York teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Angels, the San Francisco Giants, the San Diego Padres, the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs are all franchises that have made their interest in Ohtani evident — and would be able to pay the hefty price tag he comes with.

Which doesn't mean other teams aren't a part of the Ohtani sweepstakes. Theoretically, all 30 MLB clubs could find a way to get him in their jersey next season — which is why, even though the World Series is sure to deliver, what follows it should be even more exciting.

MORE: Top Shohei Ohtani Free Agent Landing Spots This Offseason