Thanks to undergoing Tommy John surgery again, Shohei Ohtani's impending trip to free agency will look different than what we originally expected.
That doesn't mean it still won't be absolutely fascinating to what how his market develops, though. The two-way superstar has already won one American League MVP Award and will likely take home the honor a second time for his work from this past season. The 2023 AL home run king slugged 44 dingers while posting a 1.066 OPS in 497 plate appearances. He also produced a 3.14 ERA in 132 innings prior to his injury.
Let's not get it twisted — every MLB team could use a player like Shohei Ohtani. Not everyone will pursue him, though, because his next contract will be quite expensive. Based on rumors from the past few months, here's a ranking of seven potential Ohtani landing spots, from least likely to most likely.
7. New York Yankees
Prior to signing with the Angels in the winter of 2017, it was widely reported that Ohtani didn't want to play on the East Coast. The Yankees were interested in him, but the Bombers didn't even get to the final round because of their location.
Have his geographical preferences remained the same? It's possible, but we don't know for sure. Plus, he's been traveling around America since 2018 playing baseball, so he's likely much more comfortable on the East Coast than he was before.
Ohtani hasn't spent much time outside of his hotel room in New York. But when he played the Yankees in the Bronx last season, he said Yankee Stadium is "a beautiful field with passionate fans" and he always looks forward to playing there.
You'd have to think general manager Brian Cashman will at least kick the tires on Ohtani. However, they seem more focused on other big fish at the moment.
6. Boston Red Sox
From everything we've heard about Ohtani's eventual free agency, he's going to prioritize winning over most things. That'll happen when you spend the last six years with the Los Angeles Angels. But could his sneaker deal with New Balance play a role at all?
Longtime baseball insider, Peter Gammons, reported the following in the middle of September:
N.L. Executive long familiar with Shonei Ohtani believes he is interested in Boston, partly because of his relationship with New Balance CEO Jim Davis.Bosox problem:Masataka Yoshida has to DH, Ohtani off TJ must DH, Sox $ mostly going to pitching.
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) September 15, 2023
Even in providing some hope to Red Sox fans, Gammons immediately dumped cold water on it with his next sentence. And this was right after Boston parted ways with head decision maker, Chaim Bloom. Between having to deal with that and a sense that Ohtani isn't at the top of the club's offseason to-do list, an agreement seems unlikely.
5. San Francisco Giants
The Giants have been trying to reel in a big-time free agent for years. They've been unsuccessful every time. San Francisco tried to lure Aaron Judge to the West Coast before he re-signed with the Yankees. The club was on the verge of finalizing a deal with shortstop Carlos Correa before that fell apart at the final moments.
Not landing them at least gives the Giants some financial flexibility to make a genuine pursuit. But while Oracle Park is one of the prettiest venues in baseball (in my humble opinion), it's not the best environment for offense. Ohtani has the kind of power that can play anywhere, but this is something to think about.
As mentioned before, we've also heard he's going to place a premium on consistent competitiveness. San Francisco has had just one winning season since 2017 and is now looking for a new manager.
4. Chicago Cubs
During Ohtani's initial free-agency tour, the Cubs were the club located the furthest east that made it to the final round of bidding. So, you'd have to imagine there'd still be some interest on both sides. Add in the fact that Chicago didn't break the top 10 in MLB payrolls this year, and there could be financial flexibility to get something done.
It also helps that we heard reports over the summer that the Cubs would be involved in the Ohtani sweepstakes.
Based on past interest, it wouldn't be shocking if Chicago is once again one of the few non-West Coast teams with a legitimate chance of landing the superstar. But will they be the highest bidder? Probably not because of who else is expected to be involved. And while they surprised everyone by being in the 2023 postseason hunt, they've appeared in October just once since 2019.
3. Seattle Mariners
Mariners fans made it quite clear during the 2023 All-Star Game that Ohtani should come to the Pacific Northwest and join Seattle for the duration of his next contract:
?Come to Seattle? chants breaking out as Shohei steps up to the plate ? pic.twitter.com/7QfgbW3hYD
— B/R Walk-Off (@BRWalkoff) July 12, 2023
Seattle spent 20 years missing the playoffs before finally getting back to the postseason in 2022. While they just missed out in 2023, the Mariners were in contention until the very end. With Julio Rodriguez leading the way, they also appear to have a solid young nucleus that can hang with the likes of the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros in the American League West.
Not only were the Mariners a serious bidder for Ohtani back in 2017, but the superstar also loves spending time in the city of Seattle.
Shohei Ohtani showed love to Seattle fans tonight ? pic.twitter.com/q8UGkmXVMU
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) July 12, 2023
Whether Jerry DiPoto and Co. are able to stretch the budget will be one of the biggest questions that need to be answered regarding a potential match.
2. New York Mets
If Ohtani shares that he's open to playing on the East Coast, the Mets are going to be a serious contender for his services. Sure, they just finished a disappointing 75-87 campaign, don't have a manager, and just hired David Stearns to be their President of Baseball Operations.
There was also the thing at the trade deadline that New York would be going through a "transitory year" in 2024 as the organization resets its priorities. But, team owner Steve Cohen is a competitive man. Reports have consistently surfaced that while the Mets won't go all-in on free agency like they have the last couple of years, they will undoubtedly make a serious run at Ohtani.
Money won't be a factor, as Cohen has shown previously he doesn't care about luxury-tax implications if he's convinced a move will push his team closer to a championship. If he's OK with moving away from the West Coast, the Mets will have to sell him on being consistent contenders, something they haven't been in quite a while.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Ohtani to the Dodgers has felt like the most likely scenario for months. It'll continue to feel that way until proven otherwise because Los Angeles truly seems like a perfect fit.
The Dodgers didn't spend a ton of money last winter, and rumor had it they were saving payroll space to prepare for making a run at Ohtani this offseason. While L.A. disappointed with an NLDS exit this October (again), they're one of baseball's most consistently competitive teams over the past decade.
They've reached the postseason every year since 2013, winning the National League West in all but one of those instances. The Dodgers have also won 100-plus games four times since 2019 and have a stacked lineup with the likes of Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts leading the way. Oh, and there is always a bunch of talent coming up through their farm system.
Ohtani would get to play for one of baseball's best teams while staying on the West Coast. Heck, he probably wouldn't even have to move from where he currently lives.
The left-handed slugger landing with the Dodgers isn't necessarily a formality yet. But, it sure seems like it's the most likely scenario at this point. Only time will tell if that's actually the case.
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