NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani met with the Los Angeles Dodgers a few days ago at Dodger Stadium, manager Dave Roberts revealed Tuesday at the winter meetings.
The two-way star is expected to command a record contract of $500 million-plus on the free agent market coming off his second AL MVP award in three seasons.
The Dodgers manager said the front office is working tirelessly with lots of scenarios and ways free agency could go.
“Clearly Shohei’s our top priority,” Roberts said. “So I still think that we’ve got a lot of people working on other things ultimately to be the best ballclub we can be.”
Roberts said Ohtani has a “very good poker face,” keeping the manager from drawing any clues from a meeting that lasted two-to-three hours.
“We want to respect Shohei’s wishes as far as being private,” Roberts said, "but obviously people talk. I don’t think I need to share what we talked about.”
Roberts at first hesitated before giving a few details.
“Yeah, we met with him,” he said. "I don’t want to — I’d like to be honest and so we met with Shohei and 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.”
Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes said later Tuesday he was “surprised” his manager shared news of the meeting with Ohtani. Details on Ohtani's free agency have been sparse amid reports his side has demanded negotiations remain private.
Gomes, who said the Dodgers brought a large party to these meetings, refused to share any details because they're not supposed to talk about current free agents.
“Dave made a comment, and, you know, we just, for us personally, don’t feel comfortable going into it any further,” Gomes said.
Asked about what Ohtani brings the team he chooses to sign with, Gomes called him a dynamic player.
“It's just not something I've ever seen," Gomes said. "A special talent and has the ability to change the game in a special way.”
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins also dodged questions about whether Toronto has met with Ohtani, saying only that they are doing everything they can to make the team better.
“Some meetings that occur, that don’t occur, I’m not going to get into the specifics of,” Atkins said. “Just as I was speaking earlier about the stakeholders (and not commenting), with free agents, they’ve earned that right and we want to be very respectful of that.”
Ohtani led the AL with 44 homers and hit .304 with 96 RBIs, eight triples and 20 stolen bases for the Los Angeles Angels in a season that ended Sept. 3 because of an oblique injury.
He was 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 23 starts on the mound, striking out 167 and walking 55 in 132 innings before tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on Aug. 23. He had surgery on Sept. 19 that will keep him off the mound until 2025.
Ohtani has not spoken with reporters since Aug. 9, failing to get on a conference call after his MVP award.
Roberts said he wasn't sure if the meeting was a pitch considering Ohtani has a pretty good idea about both the Dodgers and Los Angeles after six years in the league. Roberts said speaking for the Dodgers that it was a pleasure spending time with Ohtani.
Ohtani met with the Dodgers before signing with the Angels in December 2017 for a $2,315,000 bonus — because of his age, he was restricted by the amount of teams' international signing bonus pools. Roberts said that meeting was selling the city, country, the organization and his potential role.
“In this situation — not trying to speak for him — but it's a little bit more narrow on what his desires are as far as teams, and I don't think the sell needed to be as large,” Roberts said. "I think it was more of just kind of feeling, trying to feel what everyday life would look like.”
Ohtani earned $3 million, $5.5 million and $30 million in his three seasons of arbitration eligibility. His contract is expected to top the $426.5 million, 12-year contract of Angels outfielder Mike Trout that began in 2019.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB
Teresa Walker, The Associated Press