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Dave Roberts confirms ‘top priority’ Shohei Ohtani met with Dodgers

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MLB: Winter Meetings Kyle Schwab-USA TODAY Sports

The first day and a half of the 2023 winter meetings have been fairly boring, with very little activity on the transactional front. Shohei Ohtani remains the elephant in the room, the biggest prize of them all.

While everyone is waiting to see which team Ohtani picks, the rumored interested teams have been reportedly widely, with the Dodgers at or near the top of just about every such list. But on Tuesday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, when asked, confirmed that the Dodgers met with Ohtani and his representatives at Dodger Stadium over the weekend.

“I think it went well. But at the end of the day, he’s his own man. He’s going to do what’s best for himself, and where he feels the most comfortable,” Roberts said Tuesday at the winter meetings in Nashville.

“There are a lot of scenarios and ways that this could go,” he added. “But clearly Shohei is our top priority.”

Secrecy has reigned over the Ohtani courtship, with information hard to come by. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Ohtani met with the Giants in San Francisco last week. The Blue Jays reportedly met with Ohtani at their complex in Dunedin, Florida on Monday, per The Athletic.

None of those teams confirmed such meetings, but enough info was leaked from somewhere for the information to get out. A note from Jeff Passan at ESPN last week said this about Ohtani’s free agent wooing: “If visits between Ohtani and a team are reported publicly, it will be held against the team, so the circles will be tiny and tight.”

It’s important to note that Roberts confirmed that the Dodgers did meet with Ohtani, but did not reveal much regarding the specifics of the meeting.

“I don’t feel like lying is something I do. I was asked a question,” Roberts said. “I think to be forthright in this situation, we kept it quiet, but I think it’s going to come out at some point that we met, and it obviously already has. I don’t think myself or anyone in my organization would want to lie about it.”

He added later, “The details are going to be withheld, which I think they should be, but it’s pretty clear he’s a priority for us.”

Bob Nightengale at USA Today added this:

Roberts spoke freely and relaxed for 20 minutes, but his face became serious as he spent several moments reading a text message on his phone after his session. He immediately huddled with Dodgers public relations officials.

Roberts also said that while Ohtani won’t pitch in 2024 after elbow surgery in September, the Dodgers still expect him to pitch at some point afterward.

“Dr. ElAttrache is obviously the point person, but I think our staff is confident that, when the time is right, he will pitch again. For us, you’re making a bet on the person, and the player as well,” Roberts said. “When you’re committing this type of length and dollars, we’re all in on the person. We’re willing and excited to make that bet, and hope it comes to pass.”

Notes

  • Roberts called adding two starting pitchers “feasible”
  • The Dodgers haven’t yet met with free agent pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto. “I have not had the chance to meet him. I hope I get the opportunity,” Roberts said. “I’ve watched a lot of video.”
  • Roberts said there is still some rehab remaining for Gavin Lux, but that he would see the majority of time at shortstop in 2024. “I don’t see him taking down every game, but I see him as our shortstop,” Roberts said.
  • Walker Buehler is expected to be ready for spring training, but when he actually begins the season in the majors is to be determined. “Whether it’s the first week or a month later, we’re going to see how spring training goes,” Roberts said.

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