The bidding for coveted free agent Shohei Ohtani is down to four teams, with the winner expected to pay more than $500 million for the services of the two-time American League Most Valuable Player, ESPN reported Friday.
The Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays and the two Los Angeles teams — Dodgers and Angels — remain active in the sweepstakes, per the report. The Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and Texas Rangers all have moved on and are pursuing other options in free agency.
A wild card in the bidding could be the San Francisco Giants, who are high on Ohtani, but where they stand with him isn’t clear, per ESPN.
Whichever team signs the electric pitcher/designated hitter won’t get 100 percent benefit from Ohtani in 2024 as he recovers from a second major elbow surgery since he arrived from Japan. Still, the front offices of at least the Cubs, Blue Jays and Dodgers could be looking at Ohtani as the missing piece to propel them into the World Series.
Ohtani, 29, batted .304 in 2023 with an AL-leading 44 homers as well as 95 RBIs in 135 games. He led the AL with a .412 on-base percentage and led the majors with a .654 slugging percentage while being named MVP.
As a pitcher, Ohtani was 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA and recorded 167 strikeouts over 132 innings (23 starts). He limited opposing batters to a .184 average.
Ohtani’s pitching efforts ended after he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on Aug. 23. He continued playing, exclusively as a hitter, until sustaining an oblique injury on Sept. 3 that required a surgical procedure in mid-September.
Despite the injury, the total value of Ohtani’s next contract likely will significantly surpass the current biggest deal in baseball history — the 12-year, $426.5 million pact the Angels gave his teammate, three-time MVP Mike Trout, that runs through the 2030 season.
Ohtani made his MLB debut in 2018 and earned AL Rookie of the Year honors. In his six MLB seasons, Ohtani has a .274 career average in 701 games, amassing 681 hits, 129 doubles, 171 home runs and 437 RBIs.
In five seasons on the mound, he is 38-19 in 86 starts with a 3.01 ERA in 481 2/3 innings and 608 strikeouts.
Ohtani did not pitch in 2019 after he underwent Tommy John surgery but did contribute on offense in a preview of how he will be used in 2024.