A top-10 pitcher and top-30 hitter during the past three seasons based on his WAR at both positions, two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani is set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season — and every single team in MLB will be wanting his services in 2024. That includes his current team, the Los Angeles Angels, and the Halos are one of the teams that could afford to pay Ohtani the massive salary he will command. But it’s entirely possible that the 28-year-old has had his fill of being in LA, playing a franchise with a gigantic payroll and two MVPs (Mike Trout is the other) but just one playoff appearance since 2010.
Next season will be Ohtani’s seventh in MLB since coming over from Japan, and there’s every reason to believe that he will want to get PAID, as well as have a chance to contend for a championship in 2024 as he enters what should be the prime of his career. The Angels can fulfill the first piece of that equation, but as recent years have proven (and depending on how the ’23 season works out), LA may not be able to offer Ohtani the latter part.
Looking around MLB, there are probably only a handful of teams that can afford to pay Ohtani what could end up being a $500 million contract as well as field a competitive ballclub with a chance to advance to the World Series. For example, the Rays, who are leading the majors in wins this season, could almost guarantee Ohtani a chance at a deep postseason, but there’s no way the coffers in Tampa Bay hold enough cash to pay him like the superstar he is.
Shohei Ohtani Follows Babe Ruth Into an Exclusive MLB ClubOhtani joined Ruth as the second player with 500 strikeouts as a pitcher and 100 homers
To get an informed sense of where Ohtani could actually wind up playing in 2024 if he does leave Los Angeles, ESPN polled 26 MLB executives, agents and experts for their thoughts.
As ESPN points out, Ohtani is a huge talent on the baseball diamond but will also have a major impact at the box office wherever he winds up, as the addition of an international star like himself can impact everything from ticket prices and rights deals to sponsorships and jersey sales. The team that lands Ohtani will also have a great chance at gaining droves of fans in Japan as well as the United States because of the uptick of his (new?) franchise’s games that will be shown on national TV.
In addition to a return to the Angels, Ohtani leaving the club to join the New York Mets , San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs or LA Dodgers were all floated as possible scenarios. Of those potential destinations, it was Los Angeles that came out on top — with the Dodgers.
Of the six MLB insiders who were polled by ESPN and were willing to offer a thought on Ohtani’s future home, four said the Dodgers would be his new ballclub. All receiving one vote (some respondents suggested multiple teams) were the Mets, Yankees, Padres, Mariners and Giants. One insider went so far as to predict how a deal with the Dodgers could get done: “I think he uses the Padres and Mets to run up the price, but he wants to and will go with the Dodgers.”
Whether he stays with the Angels, goes crosstown to join the Dodgers or heads to a new city entirely, there’s little doubt that the pastures Ohtani ends up in will be substantially green with guaranteed, and deserved, money.