MLB free agency 2023: As the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes begin (again), here’s what we know for sure.

MLB free agency 2023: As the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes begin (again), here’s what we know for sure.

It’s only been 72 hours since free agency kicked off, but one name is stealing the spotlight at the General Managers Meetings: Shohei Ohtani.

The teams vying for the presumed American League Most Valuable Player are no secret. The Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Red Sox, Angels, Mariners, Rangers, and Cubs are all in the running to secure Ohtani this offseason.

With executives from all 30 clubs gathered in Scottsdale for the meetings, it seemed like a good opportunity to conduct an informal poll asking where they believed Ohtani will wind up and how they see his free agency playing out.

Unsurprisingly, the Dodgers were the overwhelming choice among executives: 10 of the 14 decision-makers who participated said they believe the Angels superstar will end up heading 30 miles north on the I-5.

“Like everybody else, I think he ends up staying in Los Angeles, but with the other team there,” one National League executive said. “When the Dodgers have an infatuation with a guy and they’ve made moves that seem like they do, they always get their guy. I would be surprised if that’s not where he ends up.

The four execs who didn’t choose the Dodgers weren’t ruling out Los Angeles’ chances of signing the three-time All-Star. They simply refrained from giving an answer, considering the unprecedented nature of his free agency—especially with his recent Tommy John surgery, which will keep him from pitching in 2024.

“I genuinely don’t know,” another NL exec said. “I had my own opinion before he got hurt, and now I truly have no idea where he’s going or what the contract will look like considering the injury. You could tell me he’s going to get $300 million or $800 million, and I would say, ‘OK, I could see that.’ It’s going to be fascinating.”

“He’s such a unique talent that nothing would surprise me,” an AL executive said.

One NL executive who chose the Dodgers believes their toughest competition won’t come from another West Coast team but rather from a team that made headlines this week with its managerial hire.

“He doesn’t seem to be driven by money, so I don’t think it’s just dollars,” the NL exec said. “I think it’s all about fit for him. I think the Cubs will push hard for him.”

No matter what Ohtani’s deal ultimately looks like—and nearly every executive we spoke to believes he will clear $500 million—the impact he can make away from the field in terms of sponsorships, ticket sales, and other revenue-generating possibilities will prompt a number of clubs to consider throwing their hat in the ring.

MLB free agency 2023: As the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes begin (again), here's what we know for sure.

“His marketability is crazy; he’s as famous a baseball player as there is worldwide,” an AL exec said. “What does that mean? What is that worth? He’s the only person that can potentially meaningfully create that value above and beyond the on-field impact.”

“There’s going to be competition, which is going to drive the price up,” another AL exec said. “Before the injury, I thought, ‘How do you not pay $700 million for him?’ He’s a two-way guy that is exceptional; if you were signing two guys that do what he did, it would cost you $700 million. I know he’s one person and that’s a tough thing to navigate, but I still don’t think he takes a huge hit. He’s not going to have a shortage of suitors.”

“The driving force for a lot of teams might be about more than the baseball stuff,” an NL exec added. “That could make things interesting.”

Few people in the industry believe Ohtani will stay in Anaheim, though not because his former team won’t do anything it can to retain him. The Angels have not posted a winning record in any of Ohtani’s six seasons in the Majors, and if his primary goal is to play in the postseason with a chance to win the World Series, there will likely be better options in front of him.

“I know the Angels are trying hard for him,” an NL executive said. “They want to show people that they’re trying.”

Presented with the question of how he thinks the Ohtani sweepstakes will play out, an AL executive shrugged his shoulders before making a very bold prediction.

“I have no idea,” the exec said. “I think it’s a wild card. I do know this: Somebody is going to sign him.”