As the whole baseball world waits with bated breath to see when — and where — the Shohei Ohtani free agency sweepstakes will conclude, Ohtani has decided to keep any free agency meetings this winter a secret.
As ESPN's Jeff Passan put it earlier this week, "If there is one thing to know about Shohei Ohtani's free agency, it's that you are unlikely to know much about it until he signs somewhere. If visits between Ohtani and a team are reported publicly, it will be held against the team, so the circles will be tiny and tight."
Perhaps Ohtani's desire for secrecy shouldn't come as a surprise. The Japanese megastar has kept all of his MLB contract negotiations quiet dating back to 2018, when he was deciding which team he'd like to sign with upon moving to the MLB from the Japanese Pacific League.
While this hushed-meeting approach seems to fit Ohtani's personality, it also makes sense from a business perspective. Since Ohtani apparently hopes to make his free agency decision prior to the MLB's winter meetings (taking place in Nashville from Dec. 4-7), keeping his meetings out of the spotlight is a way to make sure no outside noise gets in the way of his desired timeline.
This secrecy is also a way to gauge which teams are truly willing to put their money where their mouth is, and which teams are just feigning interest in the two-time unanimous AL MVP in order to facilitate fan excitement.
While we've seen multiple teams across the MLB make their interest in signing Ohtani known (such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Mets, the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays) we likely won't know until Ohtani makes his decision which of these teams actually met with him during this offseason. Yet, considering recent speculation that the Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves are all willing to pay Ohtani however much money he wants for his next contract, it's safe to assume that all three of those teams are going to at least meet with Ohtani and his management.
Even though we may not hear much about it in the coming weeks, the ongoing Ohtani sweepstakes is guaranteed to be the biggest story coming out of this 2023 MLB offseason. Regardless of where he goes, Ohtani is about to make a whole lot of money.
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