The Los Angeles Dodgers have looked like the frontrunner in the race for MLB star Shohei Ohtani after manager Dave Roberts confirmed earlier this week that the team had met with him and that the conversation “went well.”
However, the Toronto Blue Jays are apparently right there in the mix.
The Japanese superstar has reportedly requested privacy as he navigates his decision, but that has not stopped the speculation as Ohtani is expected to sign a record contract of $500 million-plus on the free agent market, according to The Associated Press.
“The Blue Jays, out of nowhere, have made a really strong run at Ohtani, and I’m not sure they’re considered the favorites at this point because this whole thing has been under a shroud of secrecy,” ESPN’s Jeff Passan said Thursday during an appearance on the “Pat McAfee Show.”
“Dave Roberts, the Dodgers manager, acknowledged a couple of days ago that the Dodgers had met with Ohtani and pearls were being clutched everywhere because frankly, Ohtani and his camp went to everyone before the process started and said ‘We don’t want any leaks. We don’t want this in the media. We want no acknowledgment that this historic free agency is happening right now.’”
According to The Athletic, Ohtani is believed to have met with the Blue Jays at their spring training complex in Florida on Monday – although there has been no confirmation from the team, unlike with the Dodgers.
The sensitivity of these talks has been a point of contention around the league.
The Athletic reported that Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, warned that any leaks could be held against teams.
“We want to respect Shohei’s wishes as far as being private,” Roberts revealed at Tuesday’s winter meetings, “but obviously people talk. I don’t think I need to share what we talked about.”
“Yeah, we met with him,” he continued. “I don’t want to — I’d like to be honest and so we met with Shohei and we talked and I think it went well. I think it went well. But at the end of the day, he’s his own man and he’s going to do what’s best for himself, where he feels most comfortable.”
Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes said later he was “surprised” Roberts shared news of the meeting.
Ohtani led the AL with 44 homers and hit .304 with 96 RBIs, eight triples and 20 stolen bases for the Los Angeles Angels in a season that ended Sept. 3 because of an oblique injury.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.