The offseason kicked into gear this week with the General Manager Meetings taking place in Scottsdale, Arizona. Though the meetings were eventually ended early due to a virus circling the bases of the baseball world, there was still plenty of reporting about how markets are shaping up for various clubs and players. The big star of the winter is set to be Shohei Ohtani but only dribs and drabs of information have come out relating to him so far, with Jon Heyman of The New York Post and Bob Nightengale of USA Today rounding up some of the details.
Ohtani is the top free agent available, head and shoulders above the rest. The two-way superstar has been the best player in baseball of late, putting together a three-year run of excellence that is perhaps the greatest the sport has ever seen. He’s hit 124 home runs, stolen 57 bases and slashed .277/.379/.585 in that time for a wRC+ of 157. He’s also tossed 428 1/3 innings with a 2.84 earned run average. Elbow surgery will keep him from pitching in 2024 but he will still hit, and will presumably do all he can to return to the mound in 2025 and beyond.
There has never been a player like this or a free agent like this, which puts him center stage. It has been assumed by many that he is most likely to land with a traditional big spending club such as the Dodgers, but he’s such a massive superstar that it’s possible many dark horse teams get into the mix. Marketing opportunities, both in North America and around the world, should offset some of the money it takes to land him. Those factors, along with his unprecedented talents, could open the door to unlikely suitors. “No one knows where he’s going to end up,’’ Astros general manager Dana Brown said to Nightengale. “And I think that’s exciting for the game. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. I think there may be a wild card team out there that’s going to surface. These teams can just come out of nowhere.” Indeed, any club that is not interested in Ohtani would be more noteworthy than a club that is.
But little information was to be had at the meetings, as neither Ohtani nor his agent Nez Balelo were present. Many baseball decision makers hemmed and hawed when directly asked about their interest in Ohtani, many commenting on his immense talent while adding that any club would be happy to have him. Perhaps the most absurd instance of ducking the question came from Mariners’ president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto, when…