It’s only been 72 hours since free agency began, but one name is already creating a significant stir at the General Managers Meetings: Shohei Ohtani.
The franchises anticipated to participate in the race for the probable American League Most Valuable Player have been extensively documented.
The Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Red Sox, Angels, Mariners, Rangers, and Cubs are the leading candidates to acquire Ohtani this offseason.
While assembled in Scottsdale for the meetings, executives from all 30 clubs saw it as an ideal moment to conduct an impromptu survey, inquiring about their predictions regarding Ohtani’s eventual destination and expectations for his free agency progression.
Predictably, the Dodgers emerged as the clear favorite among executives. Out of the 14 decision-makers involved, 10 believed that the Angels’ superstar would ultimately find himself relocating 30 miles north on the I-5.
“Similar to everyone else, I foresee him remaining in Los Angeles, just with the other team,” one executive from the National League remarked.
“Whenever the Dodgers fixate on a player and take steps that suggest so, they inevitably secure their target. It would be astonishing if that’s not where he lands.”
The remaining four executives who didn’t select the Dodgers didn’t rule out Los Angeles’ potential to sign the three-time All-Star. Their refusal to provide an answer stemmed from the unparalleled nature of his free agency, particularly in light of his recent Tommy John surgery, which will sideline him from pitching in 2024.
“Another NL executive admitted, ‘I honestly don’t have a clue. I had my assumptions before his injury, but now, I’m completely in the dark about where he’s headed and what kind of contract he’ll secure, especially considering the injury. You could tell me he’s getting anything from $300 million to $800 million, and I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s going to be an intriguing situation.’
An AL executive added, ‘He’s such a rare talent that nothing would be beyond the realm of possibility.’
Meanwhile, a different NL executive, who favored the Dodgers, suggested that their primary competition might not emerge from another West Coast team but from a team that caused a stir this week with its new managerial appointment.
‘He doesn’t appear to be primarily motivated by money, so I believe it’s not just about the financial aspect,’ the NL executive commented. ‘It’s all about finding the right fit for him. I anticipate the Cubs will aggressively pursue him.’
Another executive in the National League thinks that the Mets might pose the most significant challenge to the Dodgers, citing owner Steve Cohen’s capacity to surpass any competitor’s bid.
“If Steve Cohen suddenly expresses interest in acquiring a player, there’s a chance they could land in New York,” the executive suggested. “I’m not intimately familiar with Cohen’s preferences, whether he prioritizes financial supremacy or a conducive environment. If financial dominance is his priority, it might widen the possibilities.”
No matter what Ohtani’s final contract ends up being, with nearly every executive we’ve spoken to believe he will surpass $500 million, many teams will be prompted to contemplate joining the competition due to the influence he can exert off the field through sponsorships, ticket sales, and various other revenue-generating opportunities.
“His marketability is exceptional; he’s one of the most renowned baseball players globally,” stated an executive from the American League. “What implications does this hold? What is the actual value of that? He is capable of potentially creating substantial value beyond his on-field performance.
“According to another executive from the American League, there is expected to be a competitive market leading to an increase in the price,” the executive stated. “Before the injury, I contemplated how one could not offer $700 million for his services.
He possesses exceptional skills on both offense and defense; if you were to sign two players capable of what he can do, it would still amount to a $700 million investment.
While I understand he is just one individual, managing this could be challenging, I remain convinced that his market value will be relatively unaffected. He is bound to attract plenty of interested parties.”
“The motivation behind many teams’ efforts might extend beyond the realm of baseball,” noted an executive from the National League. “This aspect could add an intriguing twist to the situation.”
While the Angels are striving to keep him, there is widespread skepticism in the industry that Ohtani will remain in Anaheim. The Angels have yet to achieve a winning record in any of Ohtani’s six seasons in the Majors.
If his main objective is to participate in the postseason and contend for the World Series title, there are likely more enticing opportunities elsewhere.”
“I’m aware that the Angels are putting in a significant effort,” commented an executive from the National League. “They’re eager to demonstrate their commitment.”
When asked about his thoughts on the outcome of the Ohtani sweepstakes, an executive from the American League shrugged nonchalantly before making an audacious prediction.
“I really can’t say,” the executive remarked. “It’s a complete wildcard. What I do know for certain is that someone will secure his signature.”