Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts surprised everyone – including his own bosses – by confirming the team had met with two-time MVP Shohei Ohtani at Dodger Stadium last week.
“Clearly, Shohei’s our top priority,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “I would like to be honest. Yeah, we met with Shohei, we talked and I think it went well. I think it went well.
“But at the end of the day, he’s his own man and he’s going to do what’s best for himself, where he feels most comfortable.”
Roberts told reporters he felt the meeting went well, but joked he couldn’t tell if the feeling was mutual as Ohtani has “a very good poker face.”
“I think he was smiling inside. But I was just happy to spend some time with him. We all were.”
Roberts’ candor is a departure from a so far secretive free agency, during which very few details have emerged around Ohtani’s meetings with potential suitors.
Writing for MLB.com, Anthony Castrovince called the admission of a meeting “a stunning surprise in this secretive process.”
It has been widely reported that Roberts was later called into a meeting with his Dodgers bosses to ensure that he isn’t quite as candid in future interviews.
In a press conference later on Tuesday, Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes admitted he was “surprised” by Roberts’ admission and wouldn’t confirm that a meeting with Ohtani took place.
“It’s just not something I’m going to talk about right now,” he told reporters.
It’s unclear whether Roberts’ admission will impact free agency, but the Dodgers have long been widely considered the favorites to sign Ohtani, with the Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants and the two-time MVP’s old team, the Los Angeles Angels, also reportedly still in contention.
Ohtani, who has played for Angels since moving to the MLB in 2017, is expected to sign the richest contract in baseball history, with many reports indicating the Japanese star will earn a 10-year, $500 million contract from his new team.
Jeffrey Fellenzer, a University of Southern California sports journalism professor, told CNN in July that Ohtani’s eye-watering prospective new contract is “uncharted waters” for the MLB.
“The figures you hear mentioned, whether that be $50 million, $60 million [per year], he will set a new standard. It will be a gold standard for compensation in baseball.”
Two-way star Ohtani will not pitch against until 2025 after undergoing elbow surgery and will just serve as a designated hitter in 2024.
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