With several weeks still to go before the Winter Meetings, Shohei Ohtani's free agency has only gotten more muddled. And that's the way he likes it.
Ohtani captured his second MVP (in unanimous fashion) on Thursday evening, but shut down what was supposed to be his first conference call in months afterward. The slugger reportedly experienced "technical difficulties," while MLB said he would not be joining due to "circumstances beyond his control." Makes perfect sense, considering he appears to value nothing more than control.
As teams like the Cubs, Red Sox and Rangers reportedly join the fray for Ohtani's services, standing in the way of the supposed "favorite" Dodgers, it seems the reigning MVP's goal is silence. He won't talk. He'll take meetings, but will reportedly penalize teams if the details leak. He's the center of attention, but wants to own the offseason under cover of darkness.
Are we sure he sounds like a Dodger? Or would he rather keep a completely unexpected path secret until the very last minute?
If what Ohtani values most is privacy verging on complete secrecy, it doesn't bode fantastically for the team that's essentially been screaming from the rafters for years that they plan to center their entire offseason around him. The face of baseball prefers a clandestine operation. In other words, he has to really love the Dodgers to pick the team everyone's been chirping to him about for eons.
Remember 2017? If everyone and their mother believes Ohtani is going one place, he might prefer to pivot (sorry not sorry, Yankees). This only reinforces that nothing has changed in six years.
Dodgers, perceived favorites, watching secret Shohei Ohtani market getting crowded
(Also, of course NBC Sports Bay Area picked up on that particular tidbit instead of aggregating Jon Heyman's column wondering if Oracle Park would be a deterrent to Ohtani. Of course they did.)
Cue the Spy Sabotage Squad. It seems fair to expect boots on the ground from San Francisco, Boston and Flushing set up around LA hotspots to attempt to blow up Ohtani's spot whenever he arrives in Hollywood. You come at the king, you best not miss, but the Dodgers' operation had better be completely airtight here.
Regardless of how many rivals with binoculars are skittering around Los Angeles, it's fair to assume Ohtani will be exhausting all options before choosing a long-term partner. In other words, LA's long-registered interest won't stop him from making several dalliances. Why else would he demand secrecy if he planned to only hold one or two meetings with perceived favorites?
In Heyman's latest contract prediction ($600 million over 10 years!), he became the latest to quash LA's high hopes:
"The Dodgers are still seen as the favorite and they’re trying hard, but the Giants, Rangers, Cubs, Red Sox, Padres, Mets, Yankees, Mariners and incumbent Angels are linked to varying degrees, and the Dodgers can’t feel overly confident."- Jon Heyman
And how could they feel overly confident? Ohtani's protecting something, after all, and he has a long-held fondness for the unexpected. Things will certainly get more devious before they get clearer.