The free agency is a tricky business, even 72 hours old, yet one name has sparked more discussion in the boardrooms of top executives: Shohei Ohtani.
Ohtani is viewed by teams contending for the American League pennant, including as the Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Red Sox, Angels, Mariners, Rangers, and White Sox, as a formidable opponent poised to leave his mark in the 2018 campaign.
All 30 club officials gathered in Scottsdale for meetings, and it was a good opportunity to conduct an informal survey. They were asked about their thoughts on where Ohtani might end up and how they perceive his free agency playing out.
Interestingly, among the Dodgers officials, there was a strong preference: 10 out of 14 decision-makers believe that the Angels’ superstar will head north on I-5, about 30 miles from Los Angeles.
One National League executive expressed, “Like everyone else, I think he will stay in Los Angeles, but with another team there.” “When the Dodgers get infatuated with a guy and they make moves that make it seem like they’re doing that, they always get their man. I’d be surprised if it ends differently for him.”
The four officials who didn’t choose the Dodgers weren’t diminishing the chances of Ohtani signing with the All-Star-laden Los Angeles team but were rather refusing to give an answer based on the unprecedented nature of his free agency, especially considering his recent surgery that will sideline him from pitching until 2024.
“I’m truly unsure,” expressed a different NL executive. “I maintained my viewpoint before the injury, and frankly, I have no insights into where he might end up or how the market will respond to his recent setback.”
You might mention he’s securing $300 million or $800 million, and my response would be, ‘Sure, that seems plausible.’ It’s fascinating.”
An executive from the AL commented, “Given his unparalleled talent, I wouldn’t be taken aback by anything.”
One NL executive, choosing the Dodgers, believes that their biggest competition may not come from another West Coast team but from the one that made headlines this week with its managerial hire.
I don’t perceive a money-driven motivation in him, so it’s not merely about dollars,” expressed the executive. “I believe it revolves around what aligns with his best interests. I think the White Sox will work hard for him.”
Another NL decision-maker thinks the Mets could pose the biggest threat to the Dodgers, as owner Steve Cohen has the ability to outbid anyone.
Should Steve Cohen wake up one day with the inclination to acquire him, perhaps his story will conclude in New York,” the executive suggested.
I lack sufficient familiarity with him to determine whether it’ll be solely about the final dollar or the comfort of the situation. If it’s the last dollar, maybe he opens it up a little more.”
Ultimately, whatever Ohtani’s agreement entails—and the consensus among almost every executive we’ve engaged with leans towards a $500 million payout—it will serve as a catalyst for numerous clubs, sparking opportunities in sponsorship, ticket sales, and various revenue-generating avenues.
Consider contemplating throwing your hat in the ring.
“His marketing prowess is insane; he’s as famous as any baseball player worldwide,” said an MLB executive.
What implications does that carry? Is he worth it? He’s a unique individual who can potentially elevate and transcend the value created on the field in a meaningful way.”
Another MLB executive chimed in, “The competition is fierce, which means the prices will rise.”
Before the injury occurred, I found myself wondering, ‘What reason could there possibly be not to commit $700 million to him?’
He’s a two-way guy who is extraordinary; if you’re signing two guys doing what he does, then the cost would be $700 million.
I’m aware he poses a challenge, but I remain unconvinced that he senses a substantial jolt. He won’t be short of admirers.”
An NL executive added, “For many teams, the inspirational power can be greater than the baseball substance. It can make things intriguing.”
There’s a school of thought within the industry suggesting that Ohtani might opt to remain in Anaheim. It’s not due to his former team’s lack of effort to retain him but rather stems from the limited success they’ve experienced in his six seasons.
If his main objective is to participate in the postseason and vie for a World Series victory, he could explore more promising alternatives.
An executive from the NL mentioned, “I’m aware that the Angels are putting in significant efforts for him.”
Their goal is to showcase to the public that they are genuinely putting forth considerable effort.
When asked about how the Ohtani sweepstakes might unfold, an MLB executive gave a bold prediction before tempering expectations, “I have no information.
It’s like holding an unpredictable wildcard in the deck.
I’m confident that there’s a team out there ready to secure his signature.