The Mets have done a lot of heavy lifting for their 2023 roster. While general manager Billy Eppler is always on the hunt for upgrades, most of the headline-grabbing work is finished for now. But there are many people already wondering about how much money Steve Cohen will try throwing at Shohei Ohtani next year to bring him to Queens.
Cohen himself is wondering this, too. He’s already been talking to upper-level Mets employees about pursuing the 2021 American League MVP next winter.
I talked about this situation last week. It’s easy to see why the Mets would be an attractive landing spot. Eppler is the guy who signed the two-way star to his first deal with the Los Angeles Angels, so there’s that connection. New York has created a winning culture in the clubhouse. It also helps that they’re winning on the field again, too. And last, but most certainly not least, Cohen is MLB’s richest owner. He made lots of money at his day job in 2022. Plus, throwing around big salaries and payroll figures clearly doesn’t intimidate him.
The only potential downside I can see is the Mets’ location. When Ohtani signed his first deal in 2017, he didn’t seriously consider any teams on the East Coast. But who knows, maybe things changed, right? It’s been six years since he came to the States. So, it’s possible Ohtani is more comfortable with his surroundings and the culture. Traveling to the East Coast to play other teams could also help with that.
Not so much, says Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Here’s a note he put in his weekend column about Ohtani’s impending free agency:
Those close to Shohei Ohtani predict he’ll stay out West when he becomes a free agent simply because of his lifestyle. He rarely ventures out, his friends say, and thoroughly enjoys his privacy.
When he was a free agent coming out of Japan in 2017, he narrowed his choices to seven teams: The Angels, Padres, Dodgers, Mariners, Giants, Rangers and Cubs. The Cubs were the lone finalist not in the NL West or AL West.
If he’s not a huge fan of nightlife and enjoys his privacy, then New York isn’t the place for him. And that’s completely understandable — it’s not for everyone. A lot can happen between now and November, though. It’s not like the Mets still won’t try.
I mean, come on — do you think that’s going to stop Cohen from trying to get a player he obviously covets? No way, man.
Another thought to try and convince Ohtani that New York could be a place to settle down is to acquire him via trade before this summer’s deadline. That’ll allow him an opportunity to see if it’s a good fit or not. Of course, there are other variables in play with that potential solution.
The Angels would have to be out of contention and convinced a long-term deal can’t be reached. New York would also have to empty out the farm system for a rental player with no guarantee he’d re-sign. And then there’s Angels owner Arte Moreno, who isn’t selling the club anymore and constantly gets in his own way.
Most people probably assumed this would be the biggest stumbling block to the Mets landing Ohtani next winter. So, hearing it from Nightengale isn’t at all surprising. But it’ll just make the chase for Cohen and the Mets that much more exciting, I suppose.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.