Shohei Ohtani tracker: Key dates to know for Dodgers debut

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

In case you've been living under a rock (or perhaps one of MLB's new supersized bases), Shohei Ohtani's free agency has ended with a $700 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Far and away the best player available this winter, the longtime Los Angeles Angels two-way star was expected to command more than half a billion dollars -- but he blew away even the highest projections. And that's despite undergoing a second UCL surgery and being unavailable to pitch for the 2024 season.

You can relive all of the buzz that led up to Ohtani's record-setting contract here, alongside our Ohtani must-reads and the key dates to know as his Dodgers debut approaches.

Key links:Our complete free agency tracker|

Ranking the top 50 free agents

Watch:Shohei Ohtani: Beyond the Dream on ESPN+

Key dates to know

March 20: Seoul Series

March 28: Home opener

April 26: Dodgers visit Blue Jays

May 3: Battle of the reigning MVPs as Dodgers host Braves

June 7: Dodgers visit Yankees

June 21: First regular-season game against Angels

Sept. 3: First regular-season game at Angel Stadium

Ohtani must-reads

How much is MLB's ultimate unicorn worth? The Shohei Ohtani True Value Calculator

Passan: Ohtani's new contract is just his latest feat to shock the world

'A decade of disaster': As Ohtani's free agency looms, Arte's Angels at crossroads

How Shohei Ohtani might earn his $700M contract with Dodgers

How the Angels will move on from Shohei Ohtani

Grading Shohei Ohtani's mind-boggling, record-setting deal with Dodgers

Why going all-in against long odds is Angels' best hope of keeping Ohtani

Did Shohei Ohtani just have the best month in MLB history?

How to appreciate a unicorn: Ranking the feats that make Ohtani MLB's ultimate unique star

'It looks like a fastball, and then it's just gone': How Shohei Ohtani has gotten better -- yes, better -- as a pitcher

Relive the buzz

Dec. 9

Ohtani joins Dodgers on record $700 million deal

Shohei Ohtani signed a historic 10-year, $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. Ohtani posted to Instagram on Saturday saying he would play for his former team's crosstown rival starting next season after spending six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels.

Grading Ohtani's record deal with Dodgers

Dec. 5

Roberts, Counsell on meeting/not meeting with Ohtani

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the team met with Shohei Ohtani in Los Angeles a couple days ago for two to three hours. "Clearly," he said, "Shohei's our top priority." -- Alden Gonzalez

Meanwhile,Cubs manager Craig Counsell says he hasn't met with Shohei Ohtani during the free agent process.Counsell was then asked if not meeting with him was any indication of the team's interest: "I don't think this is my spot to talk about individual players. It's a great question but not the spot to talk about it."-- Jesse Rogers

Dec. 4

So you're saying the Angels have a chance?

Few people on the outside give them much of a chance, but some members of the Angels have privately felt confident about their chances to retain Shohei Ohtani throughout the offseason, even though his price tag might reach $600 million.

The Toronto Blue Jays and the Los Angeles Dodgers are heavily in the mix, and other teams -- the Chicago Cubs,San Francisco Giantsand potentially others -- are also involved. But the comfort and familiarity of the Angels could still be a real draw. Their new manager, Ron Washington, was notably coy when asked about Ohtani on Monday.

"I don't have much to say about that yet because I don't want to let anything out of the bag," Washington said.

He was asked the natural follow-up: Is there anything to let out of the bag?

"I don't have anything to say about that right now because I don't want to let anything out of the bag," he repeated.-- Alden Gonzalez

Will familiarity keep Ohtani in Anaheim?

Only Ohtani seems to know where he's going to sign -- but one player agent believes he'll decide to go back to the Angels. Because of money, sure, but also because he is devoted to routine and no organization would offer him more autonomy than the Angels. "He can do whatever he wants there," said the agent. "Anywhere else, the expectations (for Ohtani) would be different" -- in meeting friends of family of the owners, sponsors, the media.-- Buster Olney

How markets for Ohtani, Yamamoto and Soto intersect

TheLos Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants are all perceived to be in on Ohtani. All of them are also interested in Yoshinobu Yamamoto, as are theNew York Yankeesand New York Mets, among others. And some of those teams -- reportedly the Blue Jays, Yankees, Cubs and Giants -- are also looking to trade forJuan Soto.

Two of those three is unlikely for most, if not all. And so, as the winter meetings kick off in Nashville this week, the question on most people's minds is which major domino will fall first. Nez Balelo, the CAA agent who represents Ohtani; Joel Wolfe, the Wasserman agent who represents Yamamoto; and A.J. Preller, the San Diego Padres general manager asking teams about Soto, are incentivized to wait for the other. But one of them, of course, has to make the first move.

The expectation heading into the week was that a Soto deal would materialize from the winter meetings and that Ohtani and Yamamoto wouldn't sign until after they concluded -- but things can change quickly. Soto will cost more than $30 million through the arbitration process in 2024, while Yamamoto is expected to sign for at least $200 million and Ohtani could command $600 million. Each team in the mix for those players needs certainty for the rest of its offseason. That could trigger heightened aggression. -- Alden Gonzalez

Dec. 1

Ohtani's final suitors taking shape?

The Ohtani extravaganza is barreling toward the finish line, and when he finally agrees to a deal, the number, sources said, will surge well beyond $500 million. Four teams have been confirmed to still be in the bidding while others are turning their attention to other players.-- Jeff Passan

Nov. 28

One-of-a-kind player, one-of-a-kind deal?

The intrigue and uncertainty that surrounds Shohei Ohtani is exceedingly unique. It's a combination that insiders throughout the sport believe might inspire innovation.

Here are five contract structures, as suggested by front-office executives, that could make sense for a situation as singular as Ohtani's -- and the team that might fit each dynamic best. -- Alden Gonzalez

Nov. 27

Are ballparks more important to Ohtani than geography?

Geography was seen as an important factor when Shohei Ohtani first hit the open market in the winter of 2017, a major reason the Los Angeles Angels -- a West Coast team at a time when only the American League possessed the designated hitter -- ultimately landed him. This time around, though, people throughout the industry believe that is no longer the case. At least not to the same extent.

A factor that might be more important, one person familiar with Ohtani's thinking said: the ballpark, and Ohtani's comfort within it.

That's why some executives believe a team such as the San Francisco Giants, who play in a very difficult hitters' park, is unlikely to land him regardless of the desire to add superstar talent. And it might be why the Toronto Blue Jays, who play 2,500 miles away from Ohtani's Southern California home, are seen as a strong suitor.

For what it's worth, Ohtani has a career 1.139 OPS at Rogers Centre. It's a small sample size (58 plate appearances). But when you're considering potential landing spots for Ohtani, don't discount the elements within a ballpark. They might matter more than where it's located. -- Alden Gonzalez

Nov. 16

Cubs eyeing second chance at Ohtani

The Chicago Cubs made a push in 2017 to sign Shohei Ohtani and were among the finalists for his services before falling short. This time, though, they might have a better shot. -- Jesse Rogers

Nov. 15

Which teams are on Ohtani's mind?

Though much of Ohtani's free agency will be played close to the vest, MLB's No. 1 free agent has expressed affinity for certain teams and cities in the past, according to multiple sources. -- Jeff Passan

Nov. 13

Could Ohtani be interested in a short-term contract?

One number has consistently been linked to Shohei Ohtani since he began dominating as a two-way player, and has continued to be brought up even after he underwent a second elbow procedure:

Five hundred -- as in $500 million, an unprecedented milestone for a North American professional athlete.

That type of free agent contract, of course, would require a long-term commitment. But people familiar with Ohtani's thinking believe he might be open to a short-term deal with an exceedingly high average annual value, a circumstance that would open up a host of suitors this offseason.

The baseball record for annual value, by the way, is $43.3 million, attained by both Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander with the New York Mets. Ohtani would blow that away on a shorter deal, even if it doesn't reach $500 million in total value. -- Alden Gonzalez

Nov. 11

Will Ohtani be off the board BEFORE the winter meetings?

Shohei Ohtani's highly anticipated free agency might not last that long. A handful of general managers who are expected to be in the market and spoke to ESPN this week were under the impression that Ohtani will choose his next destination relatively quickly, perhaps before the end of the winter meetings, which take place Dec. 4-6 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Major League Baseball would undoubtedly prefer that Ohtani -- one of the most fascinating free agents in the sport's history -- sign his next contract during those winter meetings, the annual event that brings together executives, agents and managers, drawing a heavy media presence. But one industry source said he believes it might happen even before then.

Ohtani is the type of player who typically shapes the market, prompting other high-profile free agents to wait in hopes that he will elevate their own contracts. But one executive brought up an interesting point about Ohtani, who, regardless of his need for a second elbow procedure, is expected to garner a $500 million-plus contract:

"He's in such a different stratosphere that I don't know that it even matters." -- Alden Gonzalez

Nov. 9

Is a position change in Ohtani's future?

Shohei Ohtani will serve as a designated hitter in 2024 and will look to pitch, and thus return to his role as a two-way player, in 2025.

But could the outfield be in his future?

Executives from the general managers' meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona, have brought up the possibility of Ohtani transitioning to a corner-outfield spot or perhaps first base eventually in his career. It could at least be a fallback option if at some point he is no longer able to pitch - and it's yet another indication of the value teams place on Ohtani's talent even as he is recovering from his second elbow procedure.

Former Angels manager Joe Maddon had Ohtani take some outfield reps during the COVID-19-shortened season in 2020 mostly as a way to keep his body active while he recovered from surgeries and often said he looked natural out there. Ohtani also made 64 appearances as an outfielder during his time in Japan. -- Alden Gonzalez

Nov. 8

GMs mum on Ohtani ... for now

Jerry Dipoto's loquaciousness has made him a favorite with reporters at gatherings like the general managers' meeting, taking place this week in Scottsdale, Arizona.

On the topic of Shohei Ohtani, though, the Seattle Mariners' president of baseball operations was noticeably concise.

"He's awesome," Dipoto said, simply, when asked about Ohtani on Tuesday afternoon.

Asked later how his team will approach a potential pursuit, Dipoto said, "I won't go there."

Dipoto was hardly alone. Ohtani is the guy everyone wanted to ask about but no executive was willing to talk about publicly, partly because of mandates from both the league and the players' union not to make public comments that could hinder a player's market, and partly, perhaps, because of Ohtani's desire for this to play out as privately as possible. -- Alden Gonzalez

The 10 teams in hot pursuit of Ohtani

It's still early in the process, but most of the executives and agents who talked about the subject privately seem to agree on the 10 teams that will probably be the most aggressive in pursuing Shohei Ohtani -- the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays andSeattle Mariners. But the degree of interest will undoubtedly vary greatly among them, and other surprise teams are expected to jump into the mix.

At this point, few seem to have much of an idea what Ohtani himself will prioritize. One of the few who might know is Angels GM Perry Minasian, who helped launch Ohtani as a legitimate two-way force three years ago.

He wasn't willing to tip his hand.

"I know there's going to be a lot of attention on it, and I understand why," Minasian said. "Great player. We'll see how the offseason develops. We've got our plan, and we're going to try to execute that plan and see where everything goes."-- Alden Gonzalez

Dodgers, Rangers a fit for Ohtani

Which teams do our experts think match up best with Ohtani? There are strong arguments to be made for the National League West champion Dodgers and the World Series champion Rangers.