The Shohei Ohtani Sweepstakes Is Heating Up – In Private
Free agent Shohei Ohtani might be the most highly sought-after free agent since free agency was instituted in 1972.
To write a preview covering his potential suitors would require at least 30 paragraphs, one for each team in MLB. But most organizations are staying mum about it. In fact, most are actively trying to hide their interest.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Tuesday that Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, intends to prevent teams from leaking negotiation details. Based on Ohtani’s potential asking price, which could exceed $600 million, the Japanese star’s camp clearly wants to prevent teams from indirectly communicating with one another.
Ohtani has already been ruled out as a pitcher for the 2024 season while he recovers from elbow surgery, but he will still bat and could return to the mound as soon as the following season. Even without his arm, which has put him in the Cy Young conversation at several points in his career, Ohtani’s bat alone will ensure that every team in the league finds him valuable.
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In a slightly shortened 2023 season in which he was dealing with arm issues, he still batted .304 with 44 home runs. He is one of the league’s best power hitters but has not yet played in a postseason game as a member of the Angels. He said during the season that going to a winning team would be a priority for him in free agency.
“Those feelings get stronger year by year,” Ohtani said through an interpreter about his desire to win in July. “It sucks to lose. He wants to win, so it gets stronger every year.”
In a career that seems destined to end in the Hall of Fame, Ohtani’s five years with the Angels have made him valuable, but he has not yet been able to lead a team to any success. Though they haven’t shown much interest publicly, the Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Yankees and hosts of other wealthy teams will be negotiating with Ohtani over the next few months. The next phase of his career could be vastly different.
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