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Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes intensifying, could ‘soon reach its conclusion’
By Thomas Hall2 months ago
The Winter of Shohei Ohtani may soon reach its exhilarating end.
With the annual Winter Meetings beginning on Monday in Nashville, Tennessee, the first official domino in Major League Baseball’s off-season could drop as the two-way superstar’s free agency is “barreling toward the finish line,” per ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
To note, Passan reports the Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Cubs and Angels are confirmed to be still in the running for Ohtani. He also believes the San Francisco Giants could be a wild card, given their prolonged “fondness” of the two-time American League MVP.
High-revenue teams like the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets have shifted their focus to other players, sources told Passan. The Seattle Mariners are also out after balking at the 29-year-old’s exorbitant asking price.
Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
When Ohtani ends up signing, it’s expected to be worth north of $500 million and, perhaps, even as high as $600 million. That’d destroy Mike Trout’s $426.5 million mega-deal, which currently holds the record as the sport’s richest contract.
The Dodgers are still considered the overwhelming favourite to land one of the biggest free agents in North American professional sports history. But a few baseball minds feel the Blue Jays are quietly emerging as a legitimate threat.
Once Ohtani’s decision becomes final, Passan says the remainder of the position-player market should receive a jolt of energy, as could the trade market. Thus, the appetite for top bats like Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman and others will likely intensify significantly.
Despite undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery last September, the Japanese phenom captured his second American League MVP Award earlier this winter after clubbing 44 home runs while slashing .304/.412/.654 over 135 games as a hitter, worth a career-high 6.6 fWAR. On the mound, the right-hander pitched to a 10-5 record and a 3.14 ERA, fanning 167 batters in 23 starts, worth 2.4 fWAR.
Juan Soto’s market should also start to take shape once Ohtani inks his record-breaking contract, according to Passan. With just one season of club control remaining, the San Diego Padres will likely have no choice but to trade the 25-year-old outfielder this winter, barring a last-minute contract extension. But that’s currently seen as a “long shot.”
The three-time All-Star, who’ll earn more than $30 million in his final year of arbitration, is viewed as an obvious fit for the New York Yankees – a club desperate to improve its outfield over the off-season. Additionally, the Giants, Red Sox, Mets, Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles are listed as potential suitors.
Japan’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto stands as this winter’s third major domino, with the 25-year-old pitching star garnering interest from across the league, with the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Red Sox and Cubs among the favourites in the bidding for his services. However, the Blue Jays and Phillies are also believed to be in the mix.
General manager Ross Atkins reportedly flew overseas to scout Yamamoto firsthand this past season, leading many to believe the organization has considerable interest in the former Orix Buffaloes ace. Even so, the team’s top priority remains improving its struggling offence ahead of the 2024 campaign.
With several logs on the fire, things will likely become even crazier as baseball’s off-season inches closer to the holiday season.
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