Two-way MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani currently plays for the Los Angeles Angels. He’s done that since making his big-league debut in 2018. That won’t change in 2023 (for now, at least). However, the next few months will be focused on where he’ll be playing after the trade deadline and beyond.
The Mets and Yankees have been linked to Ohtani on multiple occasions. For those still hoping either New York can eventually reel him in, they got encouraging news this week.
The beginning of spring training means players are available to speak with the media for the first time. There are already so many rumors swirling around Ohtani and his future, you just knew someone was going to ask him about it. Los Angeles will reportedly attempt to retain the superstar on a long-term extension. Outfielder Mike Trout — who is already committed to the Angels for the long haul — will also be doing what he can to keep Ohtani right where he is.
But if L.A. was hoping to get something done this spring, it doesn’t sound like that’ll be happening. Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post reported the following from Ohtani’s session with reporters:
Ohtani wouldn’t say if he’s open to extension, says he isn’t an expert on free agency so doesn’t think about how much he might get, and is offering very little about what he thinks about his future.
“I’m really not thinking about free agency right now,” he said (thru Ippei)
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) February 16, 2023
Furthermore, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register said the following about the extent of contract negotiations between both sides:
Shohei Ohtani said he has not had any “deep” conversations with the #Angels about his future. He said he’s not focused on the future right now.
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) February 16, 2023
Of course Ohtani isn’t focused on the future right now — he has a season to prepare for. But you better believe his representation is already thinking about it. They have no choice not to.
We’ve heard recently about how Ohtani likes his privacy, so he could be deflecting attention away from him. He’ll have to get good at doing that, especially if the Angels are out of contention by the trade deadline.
If these comments aren’t a front and there’s been no legitimate progress on contract negotiations, then teams interested in pursuing him will be very happy. That includes both the Mets and Yankees.
The Bombers were among the teams who tried to land Ohtani when he first came over to the States. However, he preferred to be on the west coast, and New York wasn’t even a finalist to sign him. Even though he wasn’t seriously available at last year’s trade deadline, general manager Brian Cashman made a sincere effort to make something happen.
There’s no reason to think he won’t try again if the opportunity presents itself.
As for the Mets, we already know team owner Steve Cohen is infatuated with the idea of pursuing Shohei Ohtani this upcoming winter. Could that pursuit get bumped up a few months if he’s on the trade market come the summertime? Yes.
Every bit of this situation will be fascinating to watch unfold. As long as we get to Opening Day without news of an Ohtani extension, we can assume one won’t happen until after the regular season is complete. But it’s really as good as anyone’s guess right now.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.