The 2023 MLB regular season is only two weeks old. But still, for certain players, there’s a big focus on next year. Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani falls into that bucket. That’s what happens when you’re both one of baseball’s best pitchers and among the game’s most feared power hitters.
Ohtani is set to become a free agent at the end of this season. Assuming the Angels can’t convince him to sign an extension (or anywhere else if he gets traded), he’s set to be the most intriguing free agent in baseball history. As long as he stays healthy, the soon-to-be 29-year-old will likely break all kinds of contract records. And not just in baseball, but for North American professional sports in general.
We know Mets owner Steve Cohen is reportedly infatuated with the idea of bringing Ohtani to Queens. Heck, before the 2023 season even started, he was apparently chatting with upper-level team executives about the possibility of making a run at the 2021 AL MVP.
New York has a lot to offer and has become an attractive landing spot for MLB’s top free agents. General manager Billy Eppler brought Ohtani to the Angels, so there’s that connection. The Mets are on a winning trajectory and are willing to invest in the squad to keep it that way on a year-to-year basis, as well. Their only drawback is location, especially when considering Ohtani’s past geographical preferences.
Might Ohtani feel differently about the East Coast since debuting in 2018 and traveling around the country to play baseball? It’s possible, says Jon Heyman of the New York Post:
Mets owner Steve Cohen saw Ohtani play WBC games in Japan, GM Billy Eppler signed Ohtani as Angels GM, and the in-house belief is the Mets will go big for Ohtani.
The Dodgers cleared big payroll partly to set themselves up for Ohtani, it’s believed.
The big question is whether Ohtani would consider New York. Five years ago, five of his seven finalists were West Coast teams (exceptions: Cubs, Rangers) and sources say he told the Yankees he couldn’t envision himself in New York. (His handlers say that doesn’t necessarily hold now).
For the Mets’ case, this was the hope. Money can only talk so much — especially with what he’s making in endorsements. Ohtani also values his privacy, which would likely be harder to maintain if he lived and played in New York. Being in the big leagues for the past six years has undoubtedly made him more comfortable in his surroundings, and, at least more familiar with the East Coast.
New York and the Los Angeles Dodgers are viewed as the favorites for Ohtani. So, it’ll just be another round in what’s become a nearly-annual bidding war between the two clubs and financial powerhouses.
It’s hard for me to see a scenario where Ohtani doesn’t sign with the Dodgers. They have everything he’s looking for and he probably wouldn’t even have to actually pack his bags. But, as we’ve seen since Cohen took over the Mets, we can’t count them out until the ink has dried on a contract. This reported development definitely works in their favor.
You can reach Matt Musico at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.