Latest on Shohei Ohtani: Braves a potential spot; Dodgers among favorites

Since the moment the Texas Rangers lifted the Commissioner's Trophy, one question has been on every baseball executive, player, agent and fan's mind: Where will Shohei Ohtani end up?

It isn't hyperbole to state that Ohtani is the most highly sought after free agent in the history of the sport. Nor would it be an exaggeration to say that his final decision and contract details will dictate the remainder of MLB free agency this offseason and in several offseasons to come.

Not since the days of Babe Ruth has the game of baseball seen a true, two-way superstar like Ohtani. The two-time (and reigning) American League MVP is the kind of dominant pitcher that could become the ace of nearly any of the 30 teams when he returns to the mound in 2025. At the same time, his talent as a hitter alone would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars as an immediate power bat addition that every team in MLB longs to have.

Here's the latest on Ohtani's free agency.

Sep 30, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani (17) in the dugout during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani (17) in the dugout during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Shohei Ohtani's free agency has been quiet for a reason

Although Ohtani is well regarded by those in charge of all 30 teams, you wouldn't know it by how silent the rumor mill has been regarding his free agency. His agent, Nez Balelo, has kept everything under lock and key throughout this process.

He's gone so far to do so that ESPN insider Jeff Passan reported, "If visits between Ohtani and a team are reported publicly, it will be held against the team."

MLB's annual Winter Meetings between top executives began on Sunday. The event is normally one of the biggest catalysts of team personnel moves via trade and free agency each offseason.

However, Ohtani and his agent are nowhere to be found, according to USA TODAY insider Bob Nightengale.

Nevertheless, there have been reports and rumors about which teams are in on Ohtani and what his decision timeline may be.

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Dave Roberts: Dodgers manager says team met with Shohei Ohtani

Multiple reporters present at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. have reported that Roberts said he and the Dodgers met with Ohtani recently. In addition, the team's manager explicitly stated that the Japanese star is the team's top priority.

Roberts said the meeting with Ohtani happened "a couple days ago" for "two to three hours."

In direct contrast to Roberts' approach, new Chicago Cubs manager Craig Counsell told reporters he has not met with Ohtani during his Winter Meetings media availability session on Tuesday.

The Athletic reported Counsell did not comment on whether that is an indication of the team's interest in the reigning AL MVP.

Report: Toronto Blue Jays had meeting with Shohei Ohtani

The Blue Jays may have met with Ohtani on Monday, according to a new report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.

Toronto general manager Ross Atkins had to schedule his media availability at this week's Winter Meetings via Zoom rather than in person on Monday. During the meeting, he was reported to have sat in front of a blank wall that did not reveal his whereabouts.

The team explained Atkins' absence from the Opryland in Nashville, Tenn. as a "scheduling conflict."

Manager John Schneider also had a Monday change in schedule, when his media availability session was moved to Tuesday.

Insiders believe that those absences were due to a secret meeting with Ohtani at the Blue Jays' spring-training complex in Florida.

It is unclear whether there are other factors or insider information that went into this report. Thanks to the secrecy that's become a well-known characteristic of Ohtani's free agency to this point, there may not be any further clarity on any reports or rumors until he signs with a team.

Atlanta Braves still in on Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes

On Monday morning, MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported that the Braves were one team that was still in on the two-time MVP.

"One team that I think we have not been giving enough attention to in [Ohtani's free agency]: the Atlanta Braves," Morosi said.

Morosi pointed out that a big part of Ohtani's decision goes into which teams he believes can "win sustainably," which would include the Dodgers and Braves.

"The Braves have not been eliminated from this conversation," Morosi said.

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Nightengale: Los Angeles Dodgers still favorite for Ohtani

One of the most popular predictions for an Ohtani landing spot is with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The former Angel player would help both the lineup and, eventually, the starting rotation without having to stray from the familiarity of Los Angeles.

Nightengale recently spoke with Dodgers Nation and Talkin' Baseball, and the USA TODAY MLB insider told them both that he believes the Dodgers are the frontrunner to land the two-way star.

"The Dodgers love to have the brand. They want to become Japan's team," he told Dodgers Nation. "They know [they'll] get all kinds of people coming over on excursions and everything else. You're gonna sell tons of advertising. He is a revenue producer."

In a video for Talkin' Baseball, Nightengale also alluded to Ohtani's comfort in Los Angeles as a driving factor for the Dodgers.

"Same doctors, trainers, people leave him alone," he said to Jomboy Media's Jack Oliver.

Nightengale also made a contract prediction in the video, saying it could range between $450-500 million with live incentives that will allow him to make even more money. He didn't know if the contract would be 10 years but said eight or nine feels likely.

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Shohei Ohtani decision timeline

In the same report, Morosi stated that he believes Ohtani could make a decision very soon.

"I was told in the last 24 hours it's increasingly possible he will make his choice within the next week," the MLB Network insider stated.

Ohtani's final destination has been shrouded in secrecy since his free agency began, but two things are clear:

  1. He is going to become one of the highest paid players in MLB – if not all North American sports – history.

  2. The team that lands him will be a very desirable spot for all remaining free agents.

All may be revealed by this time next week.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shohei Ohtani news: expected timeline; Braves, Dodgers possible spots