Sim us to free agency 2023-24! Because if Shohei Ohtani wants to leave the Angels but also wants to avoid the hassle of hiring a cross-country moving company, we have a wild idea that could help things along.
Ohtani's free agency cycle has been a whirlwind for a while, and we're barely within a year of the first day he'll theoretically be eligible to leave Anaheim. This offseason, executives theorized that whichever team wants to sign Ohtani's next deal will likely have to pay into the $500 millions, otherwise known as the combined price for Carlos Rodón and Bryce Harper.
Which teams will be in that pool? So far, all we know is the Los Angeles Dodgers have rearranged their entire 2022-23 offseason (and stagnated it) so that they could pursue Ohtani in the winter ahead (or, at least, it's assumed). They aren't below the luxury tax. They don't particularly care. They will be in on this.
Also competing will be Steve Cohen's Mets, always down to do something reckless and admittedly "missing a piece" after adding Carlos Correa to fill the void, then losing him. According to rumors, the San Diego Padres are also in -- and why wouldn't they be, after dangling $400 million in Aaron Judge's direction, signing Xander Bogaerts, and extending Yu Darvish through age 42? They have cash cash.
So what about the Angels? Did Arte Moreno pulling the team off the market make it more or less likely that Ohtani would return, or even consider them? Do Mike Trout's recruiting skills have any pull? Which way is the mercurial Ohtani leaning?
On Thursday, the ace/slugger opened up just a bit, and refused to comment on specifics ... in a way that won't encourage any Angels fan.
Angels' silence is Dodgers' gain in Shohei Ohtani extension talks
Saying all the right things for his brand. Not saying much of anything linking himself to the Angels longterm.
Ohtani has a unique opportunity to reset the free agent market in a way that's barely even replicable. Won't future free agents trying to approach his eventual deal get laughed out of the room? "Yeah, thanks for bringing up the Ohtani deal. Come back when you ALSO PITCH."
He can't rule the Angels out, and he won't until the season has ended. When that time comes, though, does anyone expect Anaheim to play in the deepest possible end of the pool? And does anyone think Ohtani will take a hometown discount (read: a mere $350 million) to end his career with the only MLB franchise he's ever known, and one that's been unable to even make it to the October dance, let alone win it all, during his career? The franchise known mostly for instability and incomplete rotations?
Ohtani will never have this money-making opportunity again. It's possible no player will. If a franchise is preparing to make that commitment, you'd assume they would have already engaged said player prior to the season. Not so much.
Dodgers, your move.