The waiting is indeed the hardest part.
It wasn’t explicitly suggested in song by the late Tom Petty, but Shohei Ohtani’s ongoing delay in completing his record-setting deal is creating complications across the rest of baseball.
What had been expected to be a busy Winter Meetings is wrapping up Wednesday with a marked dearth in player signings and trades, and there’s a clear reason why: Ohtani is holding up the market, even if unintentionally.
The two-way phenom is likely to sign a deal worth at least $500 million and set a new player-contract record for U.S. team sports. But until he makes a decision on where he’s going, essentially every team is somewhat frozen in how they’re conducting their roster development and budgeting.
Even if a particular team hasn’t actively courted Ohtani, whether or not the superstar ends up in that club’s division will carry some impact on its own baseball operations.
“It would be the best theory why this seems to be a slower-developing Winter Meetings,” said Orioles GM Mike Elias. “When you’ve got a generational — that’s probably not the right word, it’s like a century — Babe Ruth talent, it’s a pretty big deal. There are some really big teams that seem like they’re focused almost entirely on him right now, and that’s by nature going to clog things up.”
For much of his free agency, Ohtani and his agent, CAA’s Nez Balelo, have demanded secrecy among suitors, to the point where they will hold it against teams that leak their meetings.
That demand has been largely in keeping with Ohtani’s more reserved nature, even if it has been viewed as something of a missed marketing opportunity for the sport. But on Tuesday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts acknowledged his team has met with Ohtani.
“Yeah, we met with Shohei, we talked,” Roberts said, calling signing Ohtani the team’s “top priority.”
“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.”
The Dodgers, Blue Jays, Giants, Cubs, and Angels are seen as the leading candidates to land Ohtani.