September 30, 2023

Ahead of the historic free agency, a look at 6 potential landing sites for Shohei Ohtani

Ahead of the historic free broadcast, a look at 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 natural to look ahead to the upcoming offseason for opportunities for the Cubs and White Sox to improve their clubs heading into 2024 .

However, fans of all 30 baseball teams will have their eyes on one player, whose impending free-service is about to push the limits of what can reasonably be offered to an athlete in contract.

Shohei Ohtani, who turned 29 just over a week ago, is a unicorn not just in today’s game, but in all of baseball history.

Redefining the limitations of what baseball players can do, Ohtani has emerged in recent seasons as both one of the game’s top pitchers and arguably its most feared slugger.

After an MVP season in 2021 and an incredible follow-up season in 2022, Ohtani continues to push boundaries.

This season, Ohtani leads all majors with six triples and 32 home runs, with video game-like offensive stats.

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 any league MVP accumulates in any given season.

That is, of course, not to mention his 3.32 ERA over 17 starts on the mound, leading all of baseball in allowing just six hits per nine innings.

Needless to say, Ohtani’s free desk will be unlike any other in baseball history, with a monetary value expected to exceed any contract in the past.

Here’s a look at six teams Shohei Ohtani might end up next season:

Perhaps the most financially viable outcome is for Ohtani to simply head north on the Santa Ana Freeway and join the interleague rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

A perennial contender and most recently world champion, the Dodgers have built a reputation as a farm-system organization that continually nurtures homegrown talent while also never shying away from spending big bucks on free agencies.

The Dodgers turned heads last season when they sat on many of the biggest names in the market after a 111-51 season came to a shocking end in the NLDS at the hands of the San Diego Padres, with speculation that the Dodgers are gearing up were to have a run at Ohtani in 2024.

Ohtani would be locked into a win-now team at Chavez-Ravine, and the Dodgers have proven to have the wallet to make the move happen.

A serious contender for any major free agent by default, the Yankees remain the most valuable team in the sport and have shown no indication that they will stop spending anytime soon.

A mark of perpetual success, the Yankees last finished under .500 in 1992 and have finished no worse than 84-78 since the 1994 players’ strike.

Still looking for their first title and pennant since 2009, the Yankees recently closed the franchise’s cornerstone, Aaron Judge, and would in all likelihood be eager to give him a long-term counterpart.

Far from the most tempting option, Ohtani could just stay with the Angels, though it will probably take a demonstration from the team that they are closer to a contender for that to happen.

With a 45-46 record going into the All-Star break, the Angels are five games away from a Wild Card spot, poised to miss the postseason for the ninth consecutive year.

Despite being teammates with those widely regarded as the other half of the world’s top two players, the Angels have struggled to build a contender over the years. A consistently mediocre pitching staff and free agent contracts that have not materialized have left the Angels in eternal purgatory.

However, if the Angels make other moves on the free market or perhaps make the most extravagant offer, Ohtani can stay where he is.

After recently being swooned by fans at the All-Star Game, the Mariners have positioned themselves as a remarkable dark horse to land the blockbuster of a century.

Seattle generally presents itself as a unique destination for free agents by default, thanks to none other than geography.

Mariners players usually face the longest travel schedule in the league and must make a difficult adjustment while also having a chance to grab a unique advantage at home.

The city is also home to one of the league’s more popular ballparks and a large Japanese-American population, and a franchise that is probably only a short distance away from being a bona fide 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 money to build a contender, a desire that can be bolstered even further after what an incredible disappointing season so far.

While signing Ohtani to a contract worth more than $500 million would push the Mets into unprecedented luxury tax territory, the club’s lack of recent postseason success could cause such desperation.

With Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer both aging and the latter only having a player option with the club next season, the Mets may try to take the ultimate win-now approach next season.

Chicago Cubs

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-largest commitment of a free agency in team history to Dansby Swanson through a seven-year, $177 million deal, a big commitment to Ohtani would see the Cubs become division favorites and title contenders.

Unlike other potential destinations, the Cubs don’t offer much more security than the Angels, which is likely to hinder their already long-running case.

However, if the Cubs have a significant bid hidden and manage to finish the season strong, the North Side Ohtani could look tempting.

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