SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Everywhere you looked, every place you turned, everything you heard, and all you could imagine Tuesday, was all about.
Ohtani was nowhere in sight. His agent, Nez Balelo, wasn’t available. And his former Los Angeles Angels boss, Perry Minasian, was talking only in generalities.
Makes no difference.
is the epicenter of at the Omni Report where an entire industry anxiously awaits the outcome.
“We all involve ourselves and our profession around this game,” said Erik Neander, Tampa Bay Rays president of baseball operations “because we love it. We love talent. We love stories. And certainly, he’s as fascinating a talent as we’ve all seen in our generation.
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“Across the game, this is as anticipated a decision as we’ve had in our sport. This is certainly as captivating one to many, even for people that aren’t baseball fans.
“I think it’s great for our game.”
Ohtani, who will be honored next week with his second American League MVP award in three years, is the sport’s greatest two-way athlete in history, even eclipsing. in five years on Sept. 19, and won’t be able to pitch again until at least 2025, if not later, but no matter. There’s not a team in baseball that doesn’t covet him. Even with a price-tag that will exceed $400 million, he’s expected to receive the most seven-figure contract offers in baseball history.
Traditionally when a marquee free agent hits the open market, he’ll get two, perhaps three legitimate offers. Aaron Judge got offers from only the New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres last winter. Bryce Harper’s market consisted of the Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Giants. Manny Machado had offers from only the Padres and Chicago White Sox.
“I’ve had a few big-name players, and many times, it’s just team bidding against themselves,” one veteran agent said. “You just don’t have many teams willing to make that kind of commitment.”
This time is different.
Ohtani could have as many as 10 teams making legitimate offers, and perhaps as many as 20 who’ll tell their fanbase they were in on him, too.
Simply put, he’s the holy grail of free agency in the sports world.
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“Just as an industry and fan perspective,’’ Cleveland Guardians GM Mike Chernoff said, “he’s the most interesting story in baseball right now. He’s just such a unique talent. I’m trying to think of what guys have had this sort of unique attributes over the years, and I can’t think of any.
“He just brings a whole different dynamic just because he’s a two-way player thing. I can’t even imagine how that will be valued on the market.
“I have no idea how it will play out.’’
There will be big markets and mid-sized markets involved. Teams from San Diego to Toronto to Texas to New York to Chicago will be in the bidding. The only thing guaranteed, GMs say, is that there will be a mystery team, a finalist in the sweepstakes that no one saw coming.
It could be as shocking as the 2000 winter meetings when the Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez to a record 10-year, $252 million contract, the richest in sports, easily beating out the Seattle Mariners and Atlanta.
“No one knows where he’s going to end up,’’ Houston Astros GM Dana Brown said, “and I think that’s exciting for the game. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. I think there may be a wild-card team out there that’s going to surface. These teams can just come out of nowhere.
“It’s so unpredictable. I mean, like honestly, I didn’t even consider the Cubs for [Craig] Counsell. I wasn’t even thinking about that. I’m thinking maybe the Mets or he goes back to Milwaukee, and then all of a sudden, it’s the Chicago Cubs.
“Where these things land is really difficult to predict. In free agency, it’s got to be the perfect city, the perfect match and a revenue city that can actually afford him. Only the good Lord knows where he ends up.’’
Minasian wishes he could wave a magic wand and bring him back. The Angels never reached the postseason during his six years with the team, but he has been the most electrifying player in the game, hitting a league-leading 44 homers with 95 RBI, 20 stolen bases and a career-high 1.066 OPS despite missing most of September. On the mound, he went 25-14 with a 2.69 ERA, striking out 386 batters in 298 innings the past two years.
Where else can you find a legitimate ace and one of the game’s premier power hitters in one package?
“I don’t think the world quite appreciates how hard or challenging this is relative to any other athlete in sports,’’ said Derek Falvey, Minnesota Twins president of baseball operations. “It’s like there’s no quarterback in the NFL also playing free safety at a high level. It’s just very unique. So, I appreciate it just as a fan of baseball.’’
Said Brown: “He’s actually getting the American kids to start thinking about, hey, I can pitch and hit. Remember when guys were drafted they had to choose. Now, guys will get an opportunity to say I want to do both.’’
The Angels may be flawed, but they know they’re a whole lot better with him than without him, and truly believe they have a genuine chance to keep him.
If they wanted to trade him last summer, they could have received at least three top 10 prospects from any contender. Several teams were willing to offer their best, and more. Angels owner Arte Moreno also knew that if he traded Ohtani, he wasn’t getting him back. Once Ohtani walked out the door, he was gone forever.
So now, they’ll take their chances and compete with the big boys. The Dodgers remain the heavy favorites. The Chicago Cubs and Rangers are serious contenders, with several GMs saying that the Cubs may be the most aggressive team for his services. And it would be foolish to count out the Boston Red Sox, New York Mets or even San Francisco Giants.
“Great player, I think there’s going to be a lot of attention on it,’’ Minasian said. “And I understand why. We’ll see how the off-season develops. We’ve got our plan, and we’re going to try and execute that plan and we’ll see where everything goes.’’
The Angels aren’t promising a playoff berth with Ohtani, just like the Rangers didn’t when they recruited Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Jacob deGrom, either. Yet, in a baseball world where this year’s World Series teams lost 110 and 102 games just two years ago, anything can happen.
“I think this is a very desirable place to play,’’ Minasian said. “It’s in a great part of the country. We have an outstanding fan base. The players that have played here since I’ve been here, have been really, really positive with their experiences.
“So, with anybody on the market, I think we have a chance.’’
For all of those that don’t believe Ohtani has any interest in returning, Minasian doesn’t blink. They signed Mike Trout to a 10-year, $360 million contract when folks thought he preferred to one day to play in Philadelphia or New York. They outbid the Miami Marlins and Cincinnati Reds for Albert Pujols in 2011. They persuaded Anthony Rendon to come their way in 2019.
Many of those decisions may have backfired, but it proved that Moreno loves his stars, and has not backed away from shelling out money, even if it means flying past the $237 million luxury tax threshold in 2024.
“I wouldn’t put anything past,’’ Minasian said. “I think it’s something that for the right opportunities, ownership is all about winning. …We’ll do what we can to make the team as good as we can.’’
So, buckle up, lock the doors, and brace yourself for a seismic impact once Ohtani makes the decision heard ‘round the baseball world.
“It’s probably the most focused on free agent moment that I can remember,’’ Falvey said. “We’ll see how it shakes out.
“Just stay out of the [AL] Central. That’s all I care about.’’
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