'An absolute perfect fit': What you need to know about the Blue Jays reported interest in Shohei Ohtani
Published Tuesday, December 5, 2023 2:32PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 5, 2023 5:09PM EST
The Toronto Blue Jays could be in a three-way race to score one of the biggest free agents in baseball history, but how likely is it that they will actually sign Shohei Ohtani?
“Picture a unicorn: One of the best players in the game right now. A guy that's doing things that we have haven't seen since Babe Ruth,” Johnny Giunta of the Gate 14 podcast told CTV News Toronto. “I mean, we're talking about a guy that is a top 10, top 15 pitcher in the major leagues and a guy that's a top 10, top 15 hitter in the major leagues, maybe top 5 hitter.”
The 29-year-old, two-way Japanese phenom stepped into free agency in the fall following one of the best seasons of his career with the Los Angeles Angels and a unanimous AL MVP award -- his second in three years.
He’s expected to fetch a deal upwards of US$500 million, a staggering amount that would dwarf the biggest contract in MLB history, a $426.5 million deal held by former teammate Mike Trout.
Multiple media reports have said that Ohtani met with the Jays’ front office in Dunedin, Florida, on Monday. The same day, Jays general manager Ross Atkins switched his in-person media availability at the MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennesee, to Zoom at the last minute due to a “scheduling conflict.”
Atkins dodged questions about whether Toronto has met with Ohtani, saying only that they are doing everything they can to make the team better.
“Some meetings that occur, that don't occur, I'm not going to get into the specifics of,” Atkins said. “Just as I was speaking earlier about the stakeholders (and not commenting), with free agents, they've earned that right and we want to be very respectful of that.”
TSN's Matt Cauz explained that Ohtani’s trade discussions are so shrouded in mystery because his representatives have said if there are any leaks, he will not sign with that team.
“[Atkins] couldn't tell us where he was. He wasn't in Nashville for the baseball meetings,” Cauz told CP24 on Tuesday.
The Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers are also in talks with Ohtani, the latter of which met with him a few days ago, according to multiple media reports.
“Usually, agents are always forcing information, getting leaks out there to try to help their client. This case is totally different….It's a very unique situation, but also Shohei Ohtani represents the greatest free agent, maybe in the history of baseball. We haven't seen anything like this before.”
So, what would an Ohtani addition mean to the Jays? According to Cauz, more confidence in the front office and power at the plate.
“By doing this move, it immediately wipes away all the negative feelings towards the loss against the Minnesota Twins. And also, this gives the Jays’ offence what they need: They couldn't hit home runs last year,” Cauz said.
Ohtani hit 44 home runs during the 2022-2023 season, the fourth-best in the league and nearly double that of Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He also led the MLB in on-base plus slugging at 1.066 per cent.
“Ohtani is one of the best at hitting home runs. It's an absolute perfect fit for the Blue Jays,” Cauz said.
As for the price of scoring such a massive talent like Ohtani, Giunta believes it’s worth the estimated US$500 million and said the team that signs him will make a return on their investment “immediately.”
“It's a massive price, but if you think about it from a business standpoint, this is huge… Jersey sales are gonna be crazy. Sold out games: The hottest ticket on the planet. This guy brings an entire posse with him. And he's an international superstar in Japan. So this is massive, massive wherever he goes.”
There’s no timeline on when Ohtani will decide where he lands next season.
With files from The Associated Press