Photo credit:Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
MLB News and Notes: Shohei Ohtani stays home, Red Sox acquire Tyler O’Neill, Angels dump salary in trade with Braves
By Thomas Hall2 months ago
Friday was a roller-coaster of emotions for baseball fans, especially those who follow the Toronto Blue Jays.
Get to the chopper!
That was a phrase most people in Canada were screaming as they scrolled through X, formerly Twitter, earlier today amid speculation that free agent Shohei Ohtani was on a plane travelling from Southern California to Toronto. But no helicopter could locate the two-way superstar.
Why was that? Because Ohtani never left his home, despite numerous reports suggesting he did. Thus, many were reminded of a critical lesson: investigative journalism and internet sleuthing are entirely different.
False reporting on Shohei Ohtani
Let’s do a quick recap here. First, everything began with a report from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, who supposedly heard Ohtani’s free-agent decision could come as early as Friday. That, of course, set off shockwaves throughout the sport.
With some flight tracking and restaurant stalking, things were off and running as the Ohtani rumours continued to swirl. Then came an apparent signing report from a blog called “Dodgers Nation,” which claimed baseball’s brightest star had chosen Toronto over Los Angeles.
Multiple reports, including from Sportsnet and ESPN, quickly doused those flames by reporting the reigning American League MVP did not have a deal in place with the Blue Jays, nor was he close to reaching a new deal.
But then Morosi chimed in again, reporting that Ohtani was on board the private charter to Toronto. The roller-coaster was back to ascending.
A rumour started circulating about a reported press conference scheduled at the Rogers Centre, which is currently undergoing Phase 2 of a $300-million renovation plan and is in no shape to hold a massive media gathering, especially on short notice.
Then, after the roller-coaster went up and down a few more times, it came to a screeching halt after USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported Ohtani was still at home in Southern California. And a few moments later, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith backed up that initial report.
According to several reports, including Nicholson-Smith’s, the Blue Jays remain in the running for Ohtani’s services. But whether they’ll end up signing the two-time American League MVP is still a major question mark.
In the meantime, everyone must continue to wait on the edge of their seat.
Tyler O’Neill is headed to Boston
Thankfully, Ohtani wasn’t the only player to make headlines on Friday, with the Boston Red Sox making a move to replace outfielder Alex Verdugo – traded to the New York Yankees earlier this week – as they struck a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals for Canadian Tyler O’Neill.
In return, the Red Birds received a pair of right-handed pitchers, Nick Robertson – acquired by Boston in last season’s Kiké Hernández trade with the Dodgers – and minor-leaguer Victor Santos.
O’Neill, who could’ve been a trade target for the Blue Jays, shores up a considerable need in left field and within the middle of the Red Sox’s batting order. But the 28-year-old only comes with one season of club control before becoming a free agent next off-season.
While he’s battled injuries recently and fell out of manager Oliver Marmol’s good graces last season, the Burnaby, B.C., native has proven formidable against left-handed pitching since 2021, hitting .260/.366/.511 with 14 home runs and a 140 wRC+ across 268 combined plate appearances.
Angels-Braves complete salary-dump trade
If one Friday news dump trade wasn’t enough, the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels provided a second, a deal featuring four players centred around infielder David Fletcher and catcher Max Stassi being sent to “The Big A.”
The two pieces going the other way were first baseman/outfielder Evan White – acquired from the Seattle Mariners earlier this week in the Jarred Kelenic trade – and left-hander Tyler Thomas, added to the organization as part of the minor league phase in Wednesday’s Rule 5 Draft.
It was a minor move for the Braves, fortifying the big-league roster’s depth. But for the Angles, it creates valuable financial flexibility, considering Fletcher is owed $15.5 million over the next two seasons and Stassi $7 million in 2024 and has a club option for ’25 that carries a $500,000 buyout.
That puts Los Angeles’ 2024 Competitive Balance Tax payroll at a projected $167.6 million, per FanGraphs. How will they spend those savings? Might it be for an Ohtani reunion?
Only time will tell. However, the franchise appears committed to competing for a playoff spot next season, with or without the Japanese icon.
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