Nightengale: Toronto Blue Jays to make ‘strong push’ for Shohei Ohtani, interested in Cody Bellinger
Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing22 days ago
The offseason is starting to pick up in baseball since the Texas Rangers won their first World Series title in franchise history last Wednesday.
In Toronto, things have, for the most part, been quiet so far. The most notable news has been hitting strategist Dave Hudgens getting reassigned within the Jays organization, and both the team and Whit Merrifield declined a mutual option.
But with qualifying offer tenders and free agency hours away from opening Monday, the Toronto Blue Jays have been linked to the belle of the ball: Shohei Ohtani.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale published an article Sunday morning previewing free agency opening up, where he linked not just Ohtani, but former Chicago Cubs slugger Cody Bellinger to the Blue Jays.
“The New York Yankees, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers will all make strong pushes (for Ohtani),” Nightengale wrote, adding that the LA Angels could, too, push for him.
Ohtani, who could come close to the $500-million mark on his contract, underwent elbow surgery that will keep him off the mound through next season, but that doesn’t appear to be a concern for teams. His prowess at the plate as a designated hitter alone will have clubs salivating, and the Jays should absolutely be doing whatever it takes to obtain his services for the next number of years.
Last season, Ohtani slashed .304/.412/.654 with his on-base percentage and his slugging hitting career highs that led all of baseball. His 44 home runs led the American League, as did his career high 184 OPS+. Add in 20 stolen bags, and you’ve got one of the most dynamic offensive player in baseball.
Nightengale also linked another big lefty bat to the Jays in Bellinger, who had a great resurgent season last year, adding in that Joc Pederson could be an option, too.
“The Toronto Blue Jays, who badly need a left-handed bat, have strong interest in free-agent outfielder Cody Bellinger,” he wrote. “The Blue Jays, however, still need to lock up Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, who are free agents after the 2025 season. A back-up plan would be to sign left-handed outfielder Joc Pederson.”
Bellinger finished the season with 26 home runs, a .307/.356/.525 slash line, while ading in a .881 OPS, the third best rate of his career. On top of that, he was a plus-defencder in the otufield with his fielding run value in the 81st percentile, and his outs above average in the 88th, according to Baseball Savant. Couple that with an 88th percentile batting run value, and you’ve got a great option for the Jays.
Pederson had a good season in 2023 slashing .235/.348/.416 with 15 home runs, but it was a step back from the 2022 campaign he had with the Giants. That year, he hit 23 home runs and had a 95th percentile batting run value, according to Baseball Savant, but that plummted to a 65th percentile rank this year.
No matter what happens, the Jays appear ready to make improvements to this club.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at email@example.com.
Recent articles from Zach Laing