The winter meetings begin Sunday night in Nashville, but that still leaves time during this weekend for progress to be made on the Shohei Ohtani front.
Jeff Passan at ESPN previewed the winter meetings on Friday, and in doing so reported on the teams still in the mix for Ohtani’s services:
The Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, who were among the initial group of suitors, have turned their attention to other players, sources said. Among those confirmed by sources to be still in the bidding: the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays and Angels. The San Francisco Giants have long had a fondness for Ohtani, though where they stand in these sweepstakes is unknown.
The Dodgers are seen as favorites, reported Ben Nocholson-Smith at SportsNet, who also noted, “other industry sources with knowledge of the process say the negotiations are entering their final stretch with a small group of teams expected to meet with the 29-year-old and his CAA Sports representatives in Los Angeles this weekend.”
Nicholson-Smith also reports the Blue Jays and Cubs are in the mix for Ohtani, and that the Giants and Angels haven’t been ruled out.
Figuring out what kind of contract Ohtani will sign remains a mystery, other that he figures to set at least one and possibly two records, for average annual value and total contract. Other projections — from ESPN, FanGraphs, The Athletic, and MLB Trade Rumors — had Ohtani making at least $450 million and in some cases over $500 million.
From Passan: “One source said he believes Ohtani will receive a contract for at least $550 million. Another said the bidding could reach $600 million.”
Negotiating said contract on Ohtani’s behalf is his agent, Nez Balelo, who was profiled at The Athletic by Sam Blum, Andrew Baggarly, and Fabian Ardaya. Secrecy of the process is of great concern to Ohtani’s camp, as it was six years ago when he first came over from Japan. Ohtani himself hasn’t spoken to reporters since August. From The Athletic:
As the baseball world awaits the most important and notable free agency this sport has ever seen, it’s Balelo who is working hard to keep it all under wraps, trying to maintain strict control of a process that otherwise would be consumed by the news-cycle wildfire of rumor, innuendo and misinformation.
Lindsey Adler at the Wall Street Journal wrote about just how little we truly know about Ohtani, even though he is undoubtedly a superstar:
Yet Ohtani’s efforts at locking down every detail about his life away from the box score hardly put a dent in his lucrative marketability. He is the unknowable man whose likeness will soon be even more present than it has been since his MLB debut in 2018. He’s an enigma, and he is on the precipice of making history.
Stephanie Apstein at Sports Illustrated noted that Ohtani is so secretive, that we don’t even know the name of his dog, the one that famously joined his AL MVP celebration a few weeks back.
At The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal looked at the potential financial impact of Ohtani on the team that signs him, through sponsorships, radio and television advertising, and the like:
“This guy’s economic impact is amazing,” said one league source, who was granted anonymity in exchange for his candor. “Sophisticated billionaires who run these teams understand that they’re going to get a great ROI (return on investment) regardless.”