There are lots of people annoyed that Arte Moreno has decided against selling the Los Angeles Angels. I don’t think you can count Mets owner Steve Cohen as one of them.
Moreno sticking around makes it less likely for an extension to get done with Shohei Ohtani before he hits free agency next winter. And, who knows, if the Angels are out of contention by summer, maybe the two-way superstar will actually be available on the trade market (but for a king’s ransom, I’m sure).
We’ve heard rumblings about teams getting ready to pursue Ohtani. Outside of the Angels, we know the Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Diego Padres are definitely interested. The Yankees, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Boston Red Sox have also been connected to the right-hander at varying degrees.
This will surely be the most fascinating free agency we’ve ever experienced. Mostly because, well, we’ve never seen a player like Ohtani hit the open market. He’ll be 29 years old in November, and the next contract he signs will almost definitely be for a record amount of money.
So, it’s not surprising that the above teams listed are the ones connected to him right now. Every MLB team wants a player like Ohtani, but there is only a small handful both willing and able to fork over the money necessary to make a deal come together.
Reports were already circulating about New York going after Ohtani next year, but then this quote from a recent article by SNY’s Andy Martino takes the cake:
According to sources, Cohen has already been talking openly to upper-level Mets people about going after Ohtani this winter. The Yankees were fairly aggressive in their exploration of a trade for Ohtani last July, so they can’t be ruled out.
This man is already talking about going after Ohtani…months before his organization is even able to do so. The Mets have a lot of things going for them in a potential pursuit:
They have MLB’s richest owner. He just made a crap ton of money at his “day job” last year, too. He even agreed to pay Carlos Correa $315 million in the span of an afternoon while on vacation in Hawaii (before things fell apart). Do you really think he’ll want to get outbid by someone else for Ohtani? It’s possible but I wouldn’t count on it right now.
The culture shift has happened. While they have their moments, the Mets are no longer the punch line of MLB jokes. There wasn’t a bunch of drama coming out of the clubhouse last year as there had been in recent seasons. Part of that has to do with the players they brought in (Max Scherzer and others). The other part has to do with manager Buck Showalter running the show.
It helps that they won 101 games in 2022 and are expected to be a serious postseason contender again in 2023. For several reasons, Queens has become an attractive landing spot for free agents.
The prior connection. When Ohtani signed with the Angels ahead of the 2018 season, Billy Eppler convinced him to. He was L.A.’s general manager at the time. We don’t know what the extent of their relationship is now, but one would imagine having that previous connection can’t hurt.
So, there you have it. The Mets can offer a competitive team with a winning culture. Eppler will also likely be the one to pursue Ohtani in free agency, something the hurler/slugger is familiar with. What’s the drawback?
The location. When Ohtani first came over from Japan, he stayed away from the East Coast. The Yankees tried hard to woo him, but they didn’t make it to the final round.
In fact, the Cubs were the only team Ohtani seriously considered that didn’t play in the AL or NL West. If Ohtani’s perceived geographical desires haven’t changed, then that’ll be a hurdle the Mets likely won’t be able to overcome.
This is not to say the Mets are the only desirable destination for Ohtani. It’s not that simple. We don’t know exactly what he’s looking for and there’s a lot at stake (around $500 million and the next 10 years or so). However, it’s easy to see how New York can be a serious suitor that ticks many potential boxes for Ohtani. We’ll have to wait and see if the pros can outweigh that one major con, though (that we know of right now, at least).
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.