Shohei Ohtani 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

At some point this offseason, Shohei Ohtani will choose his next MLB team, and the free agent will walk away with a record contract estimated at $500 million or more.

This is by far the biggest story of the offseason, but baseball insiders scrambling to cover the news are running into a stone wall of silence, denials, chastisements and other issues they rarely face.

How did the biggest MLB story of the year become a more tightly kept secret than Coca-Cola’s trademark formula?

It helps to understand that this may be exactly what Ohtani wants. An intensely private person despite his otherworldly baseball skills, he hasn’t talked to reporters since Aug. 9.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, made it known to teams that negotiations would remain confidential, and that if information leaked to the media, it would count against that team.

That might partly explain the situation Tuesday when Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer confronted MLB insider Bob Nightengale at the MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville. Nightengale had earlier in the day reported the Cubs were out of the Ohtani chase after balking at his price tag.

According to ESPN, Hoyer exchanged “stern words” with Nightengale over the report.

The information blackout isn’t always so hostile. Tuesday, after Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the team had met with Ohtani, Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes said he was surprised Roberts had talked, and refused to offer any further information.

Given the situation, writers are speaking out. The New York Post published a story Tuesday titled, “Secrecy surrounding Shohei Ohtani talks getting out of hand.” Post writer and MLB Network insider Joel Sherman thinks the secrecy is bad for the sport — and for Ohtani.

“It is the right of Ohtani to hold whatever kind of negotiation he wants and for Balelo to protect his player — and commission,” Sherman wrote. “But it can’t be good for Ohtani to be at the center of a negotiation infused with paranoia and joylessness. And it is just terrible for the sport as adults have been rendered ridiculous.”

ESPN baseball insider Buster Olney echoed those concerns in a story Tuesday.

“[Ohtani’s] short journey through free agency could have been a celebration of baseball,” Olney wrote. “Instead, his decision is being handled like delicate negotiations over a secret spy swap. There is silence and threats, with club executives rolling their eyes as they describe the warnings they have been given from Ohtani’s camp about publicly discussing their efforts to sign the most dynamic and popular talent on earth.”

Oddsmakers give the Dodgers the best shot of landing Ohtani, followed in rough order by the Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays. But several other teams, including the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners, have also shown up high on various odds boards.

He could also opt to re-sign with the Los Angeles Angels. The fact oddsmakers are all over the place on such a big story could be a result of the information blackout.

For fans looking to gamble on Ohtani’s next destination, don’t expect to get any insight from baseball insiders — they’re on the outside looking in on the biggest free agent chase in MLB history.


About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.