Ahead of historic free agency, a preview of 6 potential landing spots for Shohei Ohtani originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
As Chicago baseball fans enjoy an All-Star break with two teams performing well below expectations, it’s only natural to look to the upcoming offseason for the Cubs and White Sox to improve their clubs in 2024.
However, fans of all 30 baseball teams will have their eyes on one player, whose impending free agency is poised to test the limits of what can reasonably be offered to an athlete under a contract.
Shohei Ohtani, who turned 29 just over a week ago, is a unicorn not just in the game today, but in all of baseball history.
Redefining the limits of what baseball players are capable of, Ohtani has emerged in recent seasons as one of the game’s best pitchers and perhaps its most feared hitter.
After an MVP season in 2021 and an incredible follow-up season in 2022, Ohtani continues to push the envelope.
This season, Ohtani leads all majors with six triples and 32 homers, with video game-like offensive metrics.
Ohtani leads all of baseball in slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and total bases at the All-Star break, with his 1,050 OPS and 182 OPS+ exceeding what a league MVP compiles in any given season.
That is, of course, not to mention his 3.32 ERA in 17 starts on the mound, leading all of baseball in allowing just six hits per nine innings.
Needless to say, Ohtani’s free agency will be unlike any other in baseball history, with monetary value widely expected to exceed any contract in the past.
Here’s a look at the six teams Shohei Ohtani could find himself in next season:
Perhaps the most financially feasible outcome is for Ohtani to simply head north on the Santa Ana Freeway and join the interleague rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
Eternal contender and recent world champion, the Dodgers have earned a reputation as an organization with a farming system that continually produces homegrown talent while never shy away from spending big bucks on free agency.
The Dodgers turned heads last season when they sat on several of the biggest names in the market after a shocking 111-51 season ended in the NLDS at the hands of the San Diego Padres, with speculation that the Dodgers were preparing to make a run at Ohtani in 2024.
Ohtani would find himself entrenched on a winning team now in Chavez-Ravine, and the Dodgers proved they had the wallet to shake things up.
A strong contender for any major free agent by default, the Yankees remain the sport’s most valuable team and have shown no indication they will stop spending anytime soon.
A sign of enduring success, the Yankees last finished below .500 in 1992 and haven’t finished worse than 84-78 since the 1994 players’ strike.
Still in the hunt for their first title and pennant since 2009, the Yankees recently locked down franchise cornerstone Aaron Judge, and in all likelihood would like to give him a long-term counterpart.
Far from the more enticing option, Ohtani can just stay put with the Angels, although the team’s demonstration that they’re closer to a contender is likely needed for that to happen.
With a 45-46 record at the All-Star break, the Angels are five games short of a Wild Card berth, poised to miss the playoffs for the ninth straight year.
Despite being teammates with who is widely considered the other half of the best two players on the planet, the Angels have struggled to build a competitor over the years. A consistently poor pitching staff and unsuccessful free agent contracts left the Angels in perpetual purgatory.
However, if the Angels make any further moves in the free agent market or make perhaps the most extravagant offer, Ohtani could stay where he is.
After recently getting passed out by fans during the All-Star Game, the Mariners have positioned themselves as a remarkable dark horse to land the century-long blockbuster.
Seattle generally presents itself as a single free agent destination by default, thanks to none other than geography.
Typically facing the longest travel schedule in the league, Mariners players are tasked with making a difficult adjustment while being presented with the opportunity to seize unique home advantage.
The city is also home to one of the league’s most popular baseball fields and a large Japanese-American population, as well as a franchise that is likely one major thing away from being a true title contender.
While the Mets have broken the bank in free agency in recent years, owner Steve Cohen has shown no restraint in his desire to spend to build a competitor, a desire that could be further amplified in the wake of what has been incredibly disappointing. season so far.
Although signing Ohtani to what could be a contract north of $500 million would push the Mets into unprecedented fiscal luxury territory, the club’s lack of recent playoff success could lead to such desperation. .
With Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer aging and the latter only holding one player option with the club next season, the Mets could try to take the ultimate winning approach next season.
Perhaps the biggest sleeper of Ohtani’s potential destinations, the Cubs have rarely lived up to their big market status in free agency in recent seasons.
A year after making their second-biggest free agency commitment in team history to Dansby Swanson via a seven-year, $177 million deal, a big commitment to Ohtani would propel the Cubs to be favorites for the division and the title contenders.
Unlike other potential destinations, the Cubs don’t offer much more certainty than the Angels, which will likely hamper their already long case.
However, if the Cubs have a big offer that has been kept under wraps and manage to finish the season strong, the North Side could look enticing for Ohtani.