Joe Maddon's latest Shohei Ohtani take gives Yankees more false hope
By Adam Weinrib
This is your monthly (weekly? daily?) reminder that the last time Shohei Ohtani entered free agency at the end of the 2017 season, the New York Yankees were the heavy favorites to land his services. They were, in actuality, one of the very first teams eliminated from the chase; Ohtani's team didn't even allow Brian Cashman to make a presentation.
This dismayed Cashman, who was dressed in an elf suit at the time, greatly.
Perhaps things might be different this time around, though. Maybe Ohtani didn't want to take a crack at the game's biggest stage as a rookie, but would enjoy doing so as baseball's most exciting established star? Maybe he didn't want to share the spotlight with Masahiro Tanaka (doubtful, but it's been said)? Maybe he thought he knew something about Yankee fans or the stadium's dimensions that has now been proven inaccurate?
Or maybe Anaheim soured him on the west coast entirely, and he now would prefer to win at all costs on his own terms.
Either way, get ready for a hearty round of false hope, courtesy of Ohtani's ex-manager Joe Maddon on Jayson Stark's Starkville Podcast.
Maddon believes Ohtani has grown significantly since his debut season, and has matured to the point where he'd no longer write off the East Coast at first blush.
Shohei Ohtani to the Yankees? Joe Maddon thinks the East Coast is no problem
Will Ohtani choose the East Coast this time around? Quoth Maddon:
""And a part of that, I believe – and I don't have any inside information about this – is that when he first came here he said, pretty much that, he wanted to stay on the West Coast because Japan, it was new to him, everything was new. I think the guy's been Americanized, he's kind of like captured the hearts of pretty much everybody in this country. I think right now you can go anywhere to play baseball and feel good about it, I do. He's adaptable anywhere right now. That opens up everything. Including Canada, I mean, he'll go anywhere I think now to play baseball. There's gonna be a lotta suitors." "- Joe Maddon
Even if Ohtani enters the offseason with a mind wide open enough to include the Yankees, there are still going to be a lot of suitors. This disappearing East Coast aversion is probably better news for the New York Mets, with endless cash to splash and a recent propensity for making bigger moves than the Bombers.
The Dodgers have cleared every deck chair with the intention of pursuing Ohtani and luring him away from their natural rivals. Rumor has it the Padres will even consider trading Juan Soto if they can get Ohtani to take their $500+ million, according to Bob Nightengale.
The idea of a bidding war between those two behemoths would seem to make the West Coast even more appealing than it was in Ohtani's last free agency cycle. Nice to know he'd consider us little guys if Aaron Judge decided to demand that Hal make an all-caps power play, though.