It’s time. Or shall we say, it’s “Sho-time”?
MLB free agency close to heating up and former Los Angeles Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani is the biggest prize of the offseason. He will be able to sign with any team of his liking and will have a myriad of landing spots to choose from.
Needless to say, Ohtani is a general manager’s dream. He’s the best, most complete and most breathtakingly impressive player in the majors right now and one of the best in history. He is capable of hitting 44 home runs with a 1.066 OPS as a hitter and posting a 3.14 ERA in 132 innings with 167 strikeouts as a pitcher – all in the same year.
The extent of his dominance in both activities is amazing.
As a hitter, Ohtani’s 161 raw value+ (RV+) ranked sixth among qualified hitters and his 80 RV- as a pitcher was also much better than the league average (100). (Though he won’t be able to pitch in 2024 following elbow surgery.) Nobody in the history of the game has been so good at doing both activities in the same season. No one.
Raw value examines hitting and mound performance on a per-pitch basis, going beyond the outcome of the at-bat. It analyzes elements such as launch angle, exit velocity, plate discipline, the horizontal spray angle of the ball, and more.
Naturally, suitors will be lining up just to talk to Ohtani. He would make all 30 Major League Baseball teams better, but only one will have that privilege. It won’t be cheap (he could easily surpass $500 million or even $600 million, depending on market dynamics), but he is more than worth every penny.
How likely is your team to win the Ohtani sweepstakes and change the franchise’s outlook forever?
Let’s take a closer look at Shohei Ohtani’s free agency:
Not a Chance
30. Oakland Athletics
Nope. No way. Impossible. See you in Las Vegas.
29. Kansas City Royals
The Royals are one of MLB’s worst teams and, unlike other franchises with losing records in 2023, they are not particularly close to competing. Player development, scouting and coaching are all subpar and Ohtani won’t go to a team just to “hope” it can contend in three or four years.
28. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates are not far from being good, but if they routinely trade players when they get close to free agency, what makes you think they will spend $500+ million on one player?
27. Colorado Rockies
Even if the Rockies decided to mortgage their future on one player, why would Ohtani want to go to Colorado, one of the worst organizations in MLB at nearly every level? With the way they are set up and the fierce competition in the NL West, the likelihood of the Rockies making the playoffs in the next three years is very low, Ohtani or not.
26. Washington Nationals
Again, much like the Pirates, the Nats are not that far from contention, having improved to 71-91 in 2023 after two really rough seasons in 2021 and 2022. Still, they are being very careful with free-agent signings. If they didn’t extend Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer and Juan Soto (all cheaper than Ohtani) they certainly won’t spend on anyone.
25. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have been a mess since 2022 and were 61-101 this past season. They also have a mediocre farm and player development is highly questionable. They’ve never signed a player to more than Andrew Benintendi’s five-year, $75 million contract and owner Jerry Reinsdorf has already said that it’s not happening, so we’ll take him at his word.
24. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are not good, even if they aren’t far from being a .500 team (they did finish 78-84 in 2023). With Ohtani prioritizing winning, however, he is likely to pick a team with a better chance to compete in 2024 and beyond.
23. Cleveland Guardians
The Guardians were a playoff team in 2022 and competed in 2023, even though they fell short of their goal of making the postseason again. Pitching is good, but the offense is abysmal. Theoretically, Ohtani is tailor-made for what the franchise needs: a consistent thumper. However, the traditionally stingy Guards won’t spend $500 million or more in a single player.
22. Miami Marlins
Much like the Guardians, the Marlins are a playoff-caliber team with good pitching and a poor offense, making the fit almost natural. The fish just aren’t spending that much money, though.
21. Tampa Bay Rays
Signing Ohtani would go against the Rays’ modus operandi of internal development and cheap, consistent producers. They aren’t paying that much even though Ohtani would make them absolutely elite.
20. Arizona Diamondbacks
The reigning NL champs have slowly built a competitive roster with homegrown talent, trades, and smart drafting. Having Ohtani on board would probably make the D-backs perennial contenders, but money stands in the way and they are unlikely to seriously pursuing him.
19. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are a small-market team that rode a limited payroll to five postseason appearances in the last six seasons. Craig Counsell is not around anymore, though, and Corbin Burnes and other stars probably won’t stick around for the long term. There is a chance we have seen the best of Milwaukee for a while and the team isn’t likely to pay Ohtani what he will earn elsewhere.
18. Minnesota Twins
The Twins aren’t exactly allergic to spending big, but a deal for Ohtani is highly unlikely. They simply face too much competition.
17. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have a young, talented team in place, but it’s really hard to envision the Castellinis offering enough money to have a realistic chance of being in the race.
16. St. Louis Cardinals
Seeing Ohtani as a Cardinal is not impossible, but he will have better pitches elsewhere and the Cards need more than just the Japanese star’s homers to soar back to relevancy.
15. Houston Astros
The Astros are excellent, but owner Jim Crane doesn’t want to significantly increase payroll and, well, signing Ohtani would definitely do that. It’s not impossible, but remains highly unlikely.
14. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles just won 101 games without Ohtani, and they have a much bigger need for the pitcher version than the hitter next season, at least. It’s hard to envision the O’s spending that much money on one player, but it sure would be fun to watch.
13. San Diego Padres
Peter Seidler, who sadly passed away this week, would have sacrificed a lot for the Padres to have a chance at Ohtani. The 2021 and 2023 American League MVP would make them instant contenders. However, the team’s financial landscape is not the best, which undermines their true chances. San Diego is reportedly looking to shed payroll, and pursuing Ohtani would have the opposite effect.
12. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays still haven’t signed homegrown stars such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette to long-term contracts, so they could have some financial flexibility if they want to prioritize an Ohtani pursuit. He would give them an elite lineup and, in 2025 following Tommy John surgery, a fantastic staff with Kevin Gausman, Ricky Tiedemann, Chris Bassitt, and Jose Berrios. The Jays are not favorites, but don’t sleep on them.
11. New York Yankees
The Yankees, oddly, appear more keen on signing a starting pitcher than a position player, which is strange given that they finished 25th in runs scored and 13th in offensive raw value. In Ohtani, they would have both (even if they have to wait until 2025 for him to pitch), but they appear to be more interested in Yoshinobu Yamamoto than Ohtani. Still, never rule out the Yankees.
10. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have been on the verge of a World Series championship the past two years. Ohtani can push them over the hump. Bryce Harper has already been named the first baseman and it seems Ohtani would be a designated hitter (at least in 2024), so Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber would have to remain in the outfield. Are they willing to break the bank again after adding Harper and Trea Turner to mammoth contracts in recent years?
9. Atlanta Braves
This week, reports surfaced that Ohtani is “intrigued” by the possibility of signing with the Braves. They just won 104 games so yes, it makes perfect sense. With him on board, Atlanta would be really, really hard to beat. Is it possible? Of course. Is it likely? There will be a lot of competition and the Braves are probably not going to be the highest bidders. Still, write down their name as a legit contender for the player.
8. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels, let’s face it, are a dysfunctional mess. We can’t think of many teams in the history of baseball with two players of Ohtani and Mike Trout’s caliber that have failed to make the playoffs for six straight seasons. But LA is also the place Ohtani called home for a lot of time, and familiarity, believe it or not, could play a role in his decision. We wouldn’t rule out the Angels as the Japanese’s long-term destination.
7. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners also coveted Ohtani when he was heading to the league in 2017-18. Seattle is a quick flight away from Japan, has a talented roster on the verge of contention and an offense needs a consistent masher. In other words, Ohtani is perfect for them. As for the player, he said in July that he has spent a couple of offseasons in Seattle and “really likes it there”, so there’s that. It is a clear match.
6. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have money to spend, a drive to win, an elite manager in Craig Counsell, a good core and a fantastic farm. It’s a great time to be a fan, and if they manage to land Ohtani – they were interested in him when he entered the league – they could be unstoppable for years. It’s not hard to see the Cubs going after Ohtani.
5. Boston Red Sox
Being close to New Balance’s headquarters, his fondness for Boston and Fenway Park, and the Red Sox’s rich history are important factors that could help their pursuit of Ohtani. You could say the Red Sox are one Ohtani away from being true, consistent playoff contenders for an extended period of time and they will certainly be on the mix.
4. San Francisco Giants
The Giants were desperate to add a championship-caliber player last offseason, and they came close with Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa. They are presented with a similar opportunity this year and you can be sure they will do their best to lure the best free agent in MLB history.
3. Texas Rangers
The Rangers have made substantial expenditures in the last two offseasons, but are seen by many as one of the favorites to land Ohtani. He would take over the co-ace in 2025 alongside Jacob deGrom (just in time to replace Max Scherzer) and will strengthen an already elite lineup in 2024. Texas has money and a winning structure to lure Ohtani.
2. New York Mets
The Mets already have one of the largest payrolls in baseball, but they are presented with the unique chance of signing the best player in the league for “just” money. And money is what owner Steven Cohen has in bunches. The Mets also got one of the smartest executives in the game, David Stearns, to lead the baseball department.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have the interest, the money, the setup, and the need for a player like Ohtani, not to mention the fact they play in the West Coast and will give him a competitive roster for the foreseeable future. Executives, fans, media… all of them see the 2020 World Series champs as the favorites to land Ohtani. If they do, they would go from elite to whatever is after that.