- Shohei Ohtani first signed with the Los Angeles Angels in December 2017.
- In February 2021, he signed a two-year, $8.5 million contract, avoiding arbitration.
- Ohtani will become a free agent for the first time after the 2023 season.
If you enjoyed the drama and chaos when Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa, and Justin Verlander became free agents at the end of 2022, just wait until Shohei Ohtani hits the market.
The 28-year-old superstar is the hottest player in the league, so the competition to land him once he enters free agency will be fierce.
After achieving stardom in Japan with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Ohtani joined the Los Angeles Angels on Dec. 8, 2017. On Feb. 8, 2021, he agreed to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with the Angels, avoiding arbitration, which takes him through to the end of the 2023 season.
Assuming he doesn’t extend his contract with Los Angeles, this will be Ohtani’s first time hitting the free agency market. Virtually every team in the league will be interested in adding him to their roster — and with good reason.
Ohtani’s resume certainly isn’t short on accolades.
The two-time All-Star (2021, 2022) has won the Silver Slugger Award (2021), AL Rookie of the Year (2018), and AL MVP (2021). In addition, he’s taken home the Edgar Martínez Award twice (2021, 2022) and was named AP Athlete of the Year (2021). While playing in Japan, he was appointed to five NPB All-Star teams (2013-17), won Pacific League MVP (2016), and was a Japan Series champion (2016).
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) August 10, 2022
It seems the only award missing from Ohtani’s trophy cabinet is a World Series title, and the two-way star has made it clear he intends to sign with a contending team once he hits free agency.
“I want to win,” Ohtani said in Sept. 2021. “That’s the biggest thing for me. I’ll leave it at that.”
Add in the fact that experts project his future contract value to be upwards of $500 million, the list of teams with the potential to both afford and entice Ohtani gets narrowed down quite quickly.
So with all that in mind, where could we see Ohtani playing in 2024?
Shohei Ohtani: Potential Landing Spots
Los Angeles Dodgers
No major trade or acquisition happens without the Dodgers sniffing around. Los Angeles likes to be in the conversation with every top player on the move, and rumors that the Dodgers plan to go after Ohtani have been swirling for a while.
The Dodgers had a quiet offseason, shedding payroll to get under the luxury tax threshold. This puts them in a great position to offer a mega-contract to Ohtani at the end of the season.
Since they’re a reliable contender with a proven track record of making the playoffs, the Dodgers could be a perfect fit for Ohtani. They wanted him back in 2017 when he first came to the U.S., so I doubt the Dodgers will let him go a second time without a fight.
So could a crosstown move be on the horizon? The Dodgers are a top contender for the two-way star.
San Diego Padres
Between their aggressive approach to last season’s trade deadline and bolstering their roster further during the offseason, the Padres have proven they’ll do almost anything to go after a World Series title.
With a lineup of Manny Machado, Fernando Tatís Jr., Juan Soto, Xander Bogaerts, and Ha-Seong Kim, San Diego has a lot of talent to draw interest from top players. Could Ohtani be the team’s next big acquisition?
The Padres have publicly said they intend to pursue Ohtani in free agency, and with a lot of payroll coming off the books at the end of the 2023 season, they’ll have the money to make a big offer. GM A.J. Preller has made it clear he wants to bring San Diego its first World Series title, and perhaps Ohtani is the missing puzzle piece.
I expect the Padres to be a major contender to sign Ohtani.
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) June 26, 2022
New York Mets
If you’re searching for an owner who likes to spend big on top players, look no further than the Mets’ Steve Cohen. With an offseason splurge seeing the team’s 2023 payroll land at over $335 million, Cohen has proven he wants the best players at any price, so Ohtani will likely be on his 2024 wish list.
Considering their newly-bolstered roster, it’s no surprise the Mets sit at the top of the 2023 power rankings. Especially if they can secure another regular season of 100-plus wins, New York will have no trouble proving their longevity as a contending team. Add in the fact that Cohen will write a check for whatever Ohtani asks for, the Mets can’t be counted out as a potential landing spot.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants missed out on Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa this past offseason, so I won’t be surprised if they go after a top free agent next winter to redeem themselves with fans — and Ohtani’s the best of the best.
While the Giants certainly aren’t at the bottom of the league, they aren’t currently a top World Series contender, either. If they have another mediocre season in 2023, their biggest issue will likely be convincing Ohtani they will be able to reliably get into the playoffs in the next couple of seasons.
At the end of the day, these deals usually come down to money, and the Giants proved during the Correa saga that they aren’t afraid to write some big checks. A move to San Francisco certainly isn’t out of the question for Ohtani.
New York Yankees
I don’t see the Yankees as the most likely contender to sign Ohtani. But I also don’t think they can be counted out, if only because the opportunity to play alongside Aaron Judge has got to be a drawcard.
The Yankees are never shy in spending money, and with a market the size of New York, Ohtani would become a household name with even the least-interested baseball fans. The team is a proven and reliable contender in the playoffs, and if stardom is what Ohtani is after, the Yankees are a surefire way to get there.
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