Monday newsletter time: MLB biding its time until Shohei Ohtani decides
(AP photo/Ashley Landis)
NASHVILLE — The annual free-agency free-for-all has started here at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, but the only thing anyone really wants to talk at the winter meetings about is Shohei Ohtani.
In an era when web clicks and retweets rule, scribes were quick to speculate about the timeline for Ohtani to sign. Some say it will happen this week, or maybe that’s the hope. Even if his field of suitors has been shaved to only a handful of clubs, his decision is slowing down the rest of the market.
A few other writers suggested Ohtani will decide this month. The media who really want to know are the fine Japanese reporters, who have been frozen out by Ohtani and agent Nez Balelo.
No one in baseball media has it harder than gaggle from Japan following Ohtani. They cover one player and have to produce content on him every day. The way Balelo and the Angels treated them was disrespectful, and they weren’t remotely happy when “technical difficulties” prevented Ohtani from talking about winning the American League MVP on a conference call.
If the Rangers are out, at least the local media won’t have to deal with a superstar player who hasn’t spoken to the media since August and who last season spoke only after his pitching outings. He’s not going the have any of those in 2024, so maybe he’ll grace media with his presence after every fourth home run.
That was quite a tangent.
Ohtani, according to Rangers Today subscriber Jon Heyman of the New York Post, is already looking at a $500 million payday. Only a few clubs are willing to play in that ballpark. Where money wasn’t the overriding issue in 2017 when Ohtani chose the Angels over the Rangers, who could offer the biggest bonus, it sure seems like it will be here.
If he wants to win, the top money-win combination is the Dodgers.
One theory floated by a Japanese writer is that Ohtani wants to be the player who gets his new team over the hump, the hero/mercenary who saves the day. If that’s the case, the Giants seem like a good fit.
Hopefully, the mystery is solved this week.
The biggest news Sunday night was the Mariners making a trade with the Braves to perhaps strengthen their position for Ohtani or another high-priced free agent.
Or maybe just those bits and pieces general manager Jerry Dipoto loves to acquire.
The Mariners sent out young outfielder Jerred Kelenic, left-hander Marco Gonzales and oft-injured infielder Evan White for right-handers Cole Phillips and Jackson Kowar. The moves free up payroll and roster spots as the Mariners try to get past the Rangers and Astros in the American League West.
The Braves, meanwhile, landed their starting left fielder.
Adding high-priced free agents hasn’t worked out well in the past for the Mariners. They were hamstrung by a mega-deal for Robinson Cano, who was suspended in 2018 for PEDs and then shipped to the Mets (along with Edwin Diaz). They are currently on the hook for a sizable contract with left-hander Robbie Ray, who posted a decent 3.71 ERA in 2022 and then lasted only 3 1/3 innings in 2023.
Seattle was once thought to be out of the Ohtani sweepstakes, which apparently are drawing to a conclusion. The Mariners were thought have moved on, either at their own behest or Ohtani’s, a few weeks ago.
The move very well could be a straight salary dump. Gonzales is a fringy rotation candidate, Kellenic has been frustrating at times since coming to the majors and White is too injury prone. Phillips, a native Texan, was a promising draft prospect in 2022 who had Tommy John surgery in high school just before the draft, and Kowar is a former first-rounder trying to find his footing.
Whatever Dipoto does, the Mariners will still likely get off to slow start and come up just short at the end of the season.
Rangers Today is on the road again. I think this is my fourth winter meetings at the Gaylord Opryland, which also doubles as the country’s largest maze. It took me exactly my first trip from my room to have to turn around and try another route. An extra dose of work kept me out of the bars, so I’ll be playing ahead today. If you’re behind on Rangers Today, here’s our latest content in case you missed it.
Who else besides me is letting him in? Enjoy.
— out of context dogs (@contextdogs) December 2, 2023
Jeff Wilson, email@example.com