Do the New York Yankees have a snowball's chance of signing Shohei Ohtani this offseason, after he spurned them during his first American free agency? Or is the slugger/pitcher just a great showman who knows his stage?
When Ohtani became available in the 2017-18 offseason, he was atop the Yankees' wishlist, only for Brian Cashman to face the media -- and this is true -- with the Grinch standing behind him to let the world know that the superstar had eliminated his team with his first wave of decisions. The Yankees didn't even receive the chance to pitch Ohtani in the room, who announced that he preferred a smaller-market, West Coast team.
The Yankees (and Red Sox, and Dodgers) will never be small markets, but based on the way he's handled the early portions of 2023, with free agency fast approaching, it seems Ohtani might be reconsidering both his market size and preferred coast.
Perhaps it's wishful thinking, but Dylan Hernández of the Los Angeles Times noticed an important-seeming Ohtani breadcrumb at the All-Star break. The impending free agent has only taken batting practice on the field before three games this season: at Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, and in front of the Red Sox before a home game in Anaheim.
Yankees Rumors: Did Shohei Ohtani take BP before playing in New York to show off for team executives?
Is this a hint? Did he at least learn from his last free agency cycle that it's a good idea to string along the Yankees for a while before choosing the Dodgers, Mets or Padres? The Red Sox have Boston's own New Balance (Ohtani's sponsor) in town, as well as Masataka Yoshida and an improving team. Will that be enough to sway him, or is Boston just another good card to have in the deck?
In order to sign Ohtani, it'll cost between $500 and $600 million. It'll also require your team-building preferences, geographic location and culture to align with his favorite things.
While Ohtani didn't participate in this summer's Home Run Derby after coming up short in 2021's showcase event, he did create his own personal derby at the cathedrals of three teams who've shown varying degrees of interest in him. The Dodgers are purported to be the early favorites for his services, but the Yankees and Red Sox would have to be added alongside them in any list of the franchises that have defined baseball for the past two (three? five? seven?) decades.
Perhaps Ohtani is growing tired of the Angels and the black cloud that seems to be following their franchise. His intention to leave Anaheim isn't exactly news, though. It's long been presumed. His sideshow, with exclusive residence in Hollywood, the Bronx and Beantown, is definitely a new twist, though.
Stay tuned to see if Ohtani puts on a show at Citi Field Aug. 25-27. He just left San Diego, and reportedly didn't bring his traveling circus to Petco Park. We won't know what that means until the offseason, and any friction probably isn't something $100 million couldn't fix, but still -- the Yankees have to be feeling at least a few percentage points better about themselves armed with that knowledge.
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