OHTANI RUMORS RUN RAMPANT AS WINTER MEETINGS ENTER FINAL DAY

2023-12-06 · 3 min read · MLB/Baseball
Red Sox Alex Verdugo

Gary Vasquez/USA Today Sports | AP Photo/Ashley Landis | AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

When Kawhi Leonard was a Free Agent, things got weird in a hurry. Tracking his plane, a helicopter scoping out his next move, minute-by-minute social media reports from overzealous folks interpreting his every move - the sports world was chaotic, and Canada was no exception.
Now, as perhaps the most highly sought-after Free Agent in - dare I say - the history of sports, Shohei Ohtani is setting a new precedent. One that is so quiet and hush-hush that, perhaps, we’ve never quite seen before. For those with such a strong grasp on any given sports league, many will openly admit to stirring up drama about their future, albeit in hindsight. Lebron’s “decision”, Michael Jordan’s letter, heck even Tom Brady or Tiger Woods - none have ever been as secretive as Shohei Ohtani’s side during negotiations. Anxiety-inducing? Yes. But what wonderful entertainment!
As it currently stands, it appears to be down to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays - this comes from the opinions of “multiple” MLB executives over the past day or so, with the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Los Angeles Angels all seen as off the table.
Ross Atkins’ scheduling change for a media availability spooked the baseball community, to the point that flight records confirmed everyone’s suspicion - Ohtani and his representatives met the Blue Jays in Dunedin on Monday, days after the Dodgers had met with him in Los Angeles.
How that information came to be, well, that’s the fun part. It’s been highly speculated that Ohtani’s side would rather keep contractual information private for this portion of negotiating, which falls in line with how close to the chest Toronto’s been playing their cards. On the flip side, Dodgers’ Manager Dave Roberts openly admitted to the meeting between his organization and the two-way star - an interesting moment amidst his media scrum, with Los Angeles’ GM Brandon Gomes appearing less than impressed with Roberts’ publicization of the news.
During interviews with the MLB Network, both Ross Atkins and John Schneider gave their best non-answers once more, mentioning how complex each and every Free Agent deal is. Notably, Atkins seemed calm - Gomes did not.
This all comes as MLB insider Hector Gomez reports that the Blue Jays, as well as pursuing Shohei Ohtani, may also be frontrunners in the Juan Soto sweepstakes.
In a counter-punch, Jon Morosi reminded everyone how unrealistic a scenario would be in which Toronto acquired both Ohtani and Soto - financially yes, but a fanbase shall dream.
For every other team in the league though, Free Agency hasn’t stopped - a number of moves were made on Tuesday, including two trades.
Though not quite as impactful as Juan Soto, the New York Yankees announced they would be sending right-handers Greg Weissert, Richard Fitts, and Nicholas Judice to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo. New York’s been searching for lefty bats, and now they’ve found one in Verdugo. Since 2019, he’s slashed .283/.338/.432 with 55 HR and 250 RBI. Not a ton of pop, though not much is needed with the Yankees’ short porch in right field - plus, he’s someone they know all too well. Heading the other way is a trio of arms, most notably Greg Weissert who pitched in 17 games out of the ‘pen last season. Fitts posted a career year in AA this past summer, while Judice was New York’s 8th-round draftee in 2023.
Additionally, the recently-acquired Marco Gonzales is once again on the move - this time heading to Pittsburgh in a deal that sees the Pirates send a cash or a PTBNL back to Atlanta. A salary dump, and someone who will get no shortage of starts with a depleted Pittsburgh squad looking for innings. He’ll join a (current) rotation of JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller, Bailey Falter, and Quinn Priester.
The Texas Rangers signed veteran reliever Kirby Yates to a one-year, low-cost deal as they look to bolster their bullpen. Yates had a terrific bounce-back season with the Braves in 2023, amassing a 3.28 ERA over 60 ⅓ IP with 80 punchouts. The majority of 2021 and 2022 he was out with injury, though he was an All-Star and Cy Young finalist in 2019 with the Padres. The exact dollar amount on the deal has yet to be disclosed.
The Tampa Bay Rays re-signed righty Chris Devenski to a one-year deal with a club option for 2025, as the notoriously amazing Tampa pitching department strikes again. Though struggling with the Angels over the first half of 2023, Devenski allowed just two earned runs over 8 ⅔ IP for the Rays down the stretch.
The Los Angeles Angels have signed relief arm Luis Garcia to a one-year deal as well, worth $4.25 Million. Garcia’s been effective with the Cardinals and Padres over the last three seasons,  tossing 154 IP out of the bullpen with a combined 3.62 ERA. Los Angeles will use him as a set-up man, the role he’s been accustomed to for quite some times.
The Chicago White Sox announced that they’ve signed the 2023 KBO MVP to a two-year, $15 Million deal. That’s right folks, Erick Fedde has turned into an absolute stud - in one season with the NC Dinos, he went 20-6 with an ERA of exactly 2.00 while striking out 209 over 180 ⅓ IP. Now, one year removed from MLB action, Fedde returns with a guaranteed spot in Chicago’s rotation.
The Houston Astros have signed catcher Victor Caratini to a one-year deal, as the switch-hitting backstop will join an Astros’ squad that’s primed for another good year. Known primarily for his excellent pitch framing, Caratini did hit .259 last season with 7 longballs and 25 runs batted in. He’ll look to split time with youngster Yainer Diaz, likely replacing Martin Maldonaldo’s spot.
In other news, the Detroit Tigers have announced a long-term extension for Manager AJ Hinch, though the terms have yet to be disclosed. Hinch’s original deal was set to expire following the 2025 season, and this extension was worked out about a week after the 2023 season wrapped up per reports.
For the sake of fans everywhere, hopefully, we’ll hear some Shohei Ohtani news soon.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Gus Cousins

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