The last month of frenzied Mets signings and moves could just be a scintillating appetizer for next offseason.
Los Angeles Angels dual-threat superstar Shohei Ohtani will be a free agent following the 2023 season and all signs point to him departing Anaheim.
Whether it’s at the trade deadline or in free agency — he could be available in both transaction periods — we could see one of the most robust, manic markets for the 28-year-old. Simply put, Ohtani is a talent the game has never seen.
Over the last two seasons, he’s slashed .265/.364/.554 (.918 OPS) while averaging 40 home runs and 98 RBI. On the mound during that same span, he’s 24-11 with a 2.70 ERA, 1.046 WHIP, and an average of 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
Remarkably enough, he and Mike Trout still haven’t been enough to help an Angels team contend for the playoffs, let alone a World Series, and it appears that it’s beginning to grate on Ohtani.
“I have to say that August and September, in particular, felt longer to me than last year,” Ohtani said back in October (h/t Koji Ueda, Associated Press). “We were not able to play as many good games as we would like, including 14 consecutive losses. So I have a rather negative impression of this season.”
It’s only natural that Ohtani wants to play meaningful baseball in October, which will likely be the driving force behind a potential departure from the Angels. Of course, the prospect of a history-making payday will also play a role.
Needless to say, the Mets continue to lurk.
New York’s general manager, Billy Eppler, signed Ohtani to the Angels back in December of 2017 and reportedly checked in about a potential trade during the 2022 season.
On Thursday, Andy Martino of SNY reported that the interest certainly remains.
“Let’s put it this way: Do you think the Mets haven’t already discussed a future that includes Shohei Ohtani?” Martino wrote. “The early feel is that the two-way phenom will be next winter’s pursuit.”
How a contract like that fits into the Mets’ equation obviously remains to be seen. According to Fangraphs, they already have $215 million in guaranteed contracts on the books for 2024 — and that’s without the arbitration deals that await for the likes of Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil.
Granted, exceeding MLB’s luxury tax thresholds doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue for owner Steve Cohen, who has racked up a 2023 payroll of well over $330 million. So a deal that could see Ohtani paid $50 million per year beginning in 2024 is a bill that the Mets wouldn’t have much of an issue taking on.