The Shohei Ohtani free agency experience is going to be a ride unlike any other we’ve seen for an MLB player. That’ll happen when you’re one of baseball’s best pitchers and can also slug 40 homers on your non-pitching days. We know his market will be competitive this winter, which will include both the Mets and Yankees.
Will it be for nothing, though? After all, when he signed with the Los Angeles Angels in December 2017, he essentially told the Yankees that he couldn’t see himself playing on the East Coast. Times change, though, and so do people.
Ohtani has been playing all over America in the big leagues for the past six years. He’s probably infinitely more comfortable on the East Coast now than he was upon first landing in the States. But does that change his view on where he’d like to call home for the next stage of his career?
It might. We’ve seen recent reports suggesting Ohtani would be open to playing outside of the West Coast (while the Dodgers are still viewed as one of the favorites). Former Angels manager Joe Maddon added fuel to that fire with his recent appearance on The Athletic’s Starkville podcast with Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville.
Here’s what Maddon had to say about Ohtani (quotes via SNY):
I think more than anything Shohei wants to go somewhere where he feels assured that he’s gonna have a chance to win, to win a championship, be part of a championship team annually. That’s gonna be important to him.
And a part of that, I believe – and I don’t have any inside information about this – is that when he first came here he said, pretty much that, he wanted to stay on the West Coast because Japan, it was new to him, everything was new. I think the guy’s been Americanized, he’s kind of like captured the hearts of pretty much everybody in this country. I think right now you can go anywhere to play baseball and feel good about it, I do. He’s adaptable anywhere right now. That opens up everything. Including Canada, I mean, he’ll go anywhere I think now to play baseball. There’s gonna be a lotta suitors.
Shohei’s gotta go to free agency. He has to. And once he arrives there, somebody’s not gonna get outbid. There’s several teams that are not gonna get outbid on this one. So if you’re willing to spend an exorbitant amount of money that exceeds – with all the other people [and] the contracts you have in place – truly to do that, you might have a shot.
The Ohtani contract predictions have already been rather outrageous. The dude is going to break at least a few records depending on what teams are willing to do. We know Mets owner Steve Cohen is infatuated with the idea of landing Ohtani. And as is the case with many things, if Cohen wants something, he’s going to do everything he can to make it happen for the Mets.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner may not want to drop a bunch of money to land Ohtani, but the intrigue is certainly there. Ohtani loves Yankee Stadium, and Aaron Judge has already mentioned he’s “excited” to see how it all plays out. He might know something that we don’t. There’s no way general manager Brian Cashman wouldn’t at least kick the tires on the possibility of bringing Ohtani to the Bronx. I mean, they’re the Yankees, after all.
Maddon clearly states that he has no inside information on this situation. But still, he managed Ohtani and the Angels from 2020 through part of the 2022 season. So, the skipper was around for his AL MVP campaign when he really took things to another level.
It’ll be interesting, to say the least. And Ohtani’s reported openness to consider the East Coast could open up new possibilities. Since we already know he loves Yankee Stadium, we’ll see what he thinks of the Mets’ home in August when he visits Citi Field (as long as the Angels don’t trade him).
You can reach Matt Musico at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.