Latest on potential Mets target Shohei Ohtani: Angels reportedly 'cautiously optimistic' he'll return

Jul 17, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) flips his bat after hitting a two-run home run in the seventh inning against the New York Yankees at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Here is the latest rumors and buzz surrounding Mets target Shohei Ohtani, who is set for free agency after the season...

Oct. 16, 8:49 a.m.

The Angels are "cautiously optimistic" Ohtani will re-sign there, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today, who nevertheless notes that the Dodgers are the favorites to sign the two-way star.

Ohtani remaining with the Angels would be curious for multiple reasons.

First, and most importantly, the team has been largely non-competitive during Ohtani's time there, and there are serious concerns regarding the ownership style of Arte Moreno.

Moreno recently put the team up for sale before pulling it off the market.

Los Angeles then went all-in at the trade deadline this season even though it wasn't close to a playoff spot, trading several key young players in a postseason push that was in vain.

Additionally, it's hard to imagine the Angels can outbid teams like the Dodgers and Mets for Ohtani's services.

Oct. 12, 8:39 a.m.

There has been widespread speculation that Ohtani might not only prefer the West Coast, but that he could be unwilling to come to a team that doesn't play there.

However, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reports that "industry chatter in recent weeks" suggested that Ohtani would be "more open" to a team on the East Coast during his free agency this time around.

Davidi also noted that Ohtani had "taken notice" of the Blue Jays' player-development resources.

Before Ohtani signed with the Angels in advance of the 2018 season, he only seriously considered teams that weren't on the East Coast --  turning down a meeting with the Yankees and refusing to ponder the Red Sox.

The seven teams Ohtani narrowed it down to were the Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Padres Mariners, Rangers, and Cubs.

Oct. 5, 3:42 p.m.

An executive from a team interested in Ohtani told Jon Heyman of The New York Post that he believes the Red Sox are "a real threat" to sign the two-way star.

Whether that executive views the Red Sox as a threat to sign Ohtani because of a potential openness from Ohtani to leave the West Coast or because the Sox have expressed serious interest remains to be seen.

In a world where Ohtani is open to signing in Boston, though, it would be fair to believe he'd also be open to signing in New York.

When it comes to the Red Sox, they have a lot of money coming off the books after 2024, putting them in strong position to add a star who will be incredibly expensive in terms of both years and dollars.

Oct. 5, 1:44 p.m.

Angels GM Perry Minasian had a one-on-one conversation with Ohtani a day before Los Angeles' season ended, and relayed part of that discussion to reporters.

"I believe this is a place that he's enjoyed playing and this is a place that he loves, and it's got a group of players, teammates that he's enjoyed his time with," Minasian said, via Jeff Fletcher of SoCal News Group. "Is he disappointed we didn't win? Absolutely. Everybody is."

Added Minasian:

"You get the feeling that this is a place that he really, really appreciates, respects. And we'll just have to see what happens over the course of the offseason."

In addition to the Mets and Dodgers, the Giants and Mariners are among the teams that could make the most sense for Ohtani.

The Angels will have a short, exclusive negotiating window with Ohtani after the World Series concludes. If Ohtani doesn't agree to a deal during that window -- and it's close to impossible to see him signing before hitting the open market -- he will become available to any interested team.

Sept. 26, 4:01 p.m.

Shohei Ohtani 's days with the Angels are very likely numbered, with his season over and free agency looming. And one MLB insider believes the sweepstakes to land the two-way star will come down to the Mets and Dodgers.

"The Dodgers have been the favorite for a long time, or at least a team we thought would definitely be in the mix. I cannot rule out the Mets. I cannot see Steve Cohen simply passing on Shohei Ohtani," Ken Rosenthal said on Tuesday on the Foul Territory podcast.

"And I would also include the Giants, the Rangers -- yes, the Rangers -- and the Mariners as at least possibilities. I still think it comes down to LA versus New York -- Dodgers versus the Mets.

"The Yankees? I don't see them doing this."

Ohtani recently underwent surgery on his right UCL, but his agent and surgeon did not disclose the exact type of surgery.

He is expected to be ready to hit by Opening Day of 2024, but will almost certainly not pitch again until 2025.

Sept. 19, 5:59 p.m.

Ohtani underwent elbow surgery Tuesday morning, days after the Angels announced their two-way star's season was over after landing on the injured list with an oblique injury.

A statement through Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo, reads: "Shohei had his procedure this morning at Kerlan and Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles. The final decision and type of procedure was made with a heavy emphasis on the big picture.

"Shohei wanted to make sure the direction taken gave him every opportunity to hit and pitch for many years to come."

Neal ElAttrache, the surgeon who performed Ohtani's procedure said in the statement that the "ultimate plan was to repair the issue at hand and to reinforce the healthy ligament in place while adding viable tissue for the longevity of the elbow."

The surgeon went on to confirm that Ohtani is expected to be ready to hit without restriction come Opening Day 2024 but won't be able to pitch until 2025.

Ohtani will be a free agent once the 2023 season ends and is expected to garner a lot of attention and possibly sign the most lucrative contract in MLB history even if a team has to wait a year for his pitching performances.

Sept. 16, 2:10 p.m.

The Los Angeles Angels announced Saturday that they've placed Ohtani on the injured list with an oblique injury, ending his 2023 season.

Ohtani is already scheduled to have surgery on his UCL this offseason, his agent recently said, although it's undetermined if he'll get Tommy John surgery or a less invasive procedure.

The star has not played since Sept. 3 due to the oblique injury, while he hasn't pitched since Aug. 23.

With his 2023 season now complete, he finishes the year with a .304/.412/.654 slashline and a 1.066 OPS to go along with 44 home runs, 26 doubles, eight triples, and 95 RBI over 135 games. On the mound, Ohtani owned a 10-5 record over 23 starts with a 3.14 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 167 strikeouts in 132.0 innings.

Sept. 14, 8:50 a.m.

The Dodgers, long-rumored to be one of the top possible suitors for Ohtani, are undeterred by the star's UCL injury and intend to pursue him this offseason, reports Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times.

Ohtani will have surgery on his UCL, his agent recently said, though it hasn't yet been determined if he'll get Tommy John surgery or a less invasive procedure.

As Ohtani has weighed his options regarding surgery, he has continued to be active as a hitter.

However, he has not taken an at-bat since Sept. 3 and is now dealing with an oblique injury.

Ohtani's plan is to continue as a two-way player in 2024 and beyond. If he has Tommy John surgery, with the average recovery time for position players shorter than it is for pitchers, he could return as a hitter by next May or June.

Sept. 5, 9:26 a.m.

The tear in Ohtani's UCL will mean "inevitable" surgery -- whether it's a second Tommy John surgery or a less invasive procedure -- his agent, Nez Balelo, told reporters on Monday.

However, Balelo said Ohtani is expected to not only hit in 2024, but be ready to do so at the beginning of the season.

"Shohei’s gonna be fine," Balelo told reporters. "Is he gonna pitch the rest of the year? No. We already know that. Is he gonna get into next year? We don’t know yet. So just bear with me on that.

"But I do know this — no matter what timetable we’re dealing with and when we get this done, Shohei’s gonna be in somebody’s lineup next year, DH-ing when the bell rings. We know that. We’re not gonna push that. He’s gonna be good to go."

If Ohtani has Tommy John surgery, he will almost certainly not be able to pitch for the entirety of 2024. The recovery process usually takes between 12 and 18 months.

Hitting is a different story, and something Ohtani continued to do while recovering from his first Tommy John surgery in 2019 -- and is still doing now even though his season on the mound is over.

July 26, 10:27 p.m.

It seems Shohei Ohtani is staying in Anaheim.

Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci reported Wednesday night, and corroborated by ESPN, that the Angels have pulled the two-way star off the trade market after fielding various trade offers. The team's recent success has emboldened the Angels to be buyers at the trade deadline.

The Angels entered play Wednesday just four games out of the final Wild Card spot.

SI's report states that general manager Perry Minasian will focus on adding a starting pitcher and a reliever before the Aug. 1 deadline.

Ohtani will be a free agent at the end of the season where the Mets and Yankees are likely to vie for his services.

July 14, 12:55 p.m.

The consensus around the baseball world is that Los Angeles Angles owner Arte Moreno does not want to trade superstar Shohei Ohtani before the Aug. 1 MLB trade deadline.

MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported Friday that sources told him "the Angels front office will consider incoming trade inquiries" for the two-way player.

"The club is not ruling out the possibility of a deadline deal, even though the standard to move Ohtani is extraordinarily high," he wrote on Threads.

Morosi added that the Angels' performance in their upcoming homestand -- a three-game set against Houston, three-game set against the Yankees and a three-game set against Pittsburgh -- will be "a big consideration" in their decision-making.

However, Morosi noted, many in baseball view a trade happening as unlikely.

April 25, 9:15 p.m.

Former Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon said he had never seen Shoei Ohtani as animated as he was when he struck out Mike Trout to win the World Baseball Classic and hinted that could play a role in free agency.

"I watch him a lot and I talk to him a lot and he's a really good dude, but I've never seen that kind of reaction from him," Maddon said on the "Starkville" podcast with Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville.

And it sounds like Ohtani's former manager sees playing in a WBC-type atmosphere and having the chance to win is going to be a big factor for the superstar when making a decision if hits free agency after this season.

"I think more than anything Shohei wants to go somewhere where he feels assured that he's gonna have a chance to win, to win a championship, be part of a championship team annually. That's gonna be important to him," Maddon said.

Ohtani's former manager went on to say that the Japanese superstar may be more willing to leave the West Coast than he was when he first came to MLB.

"And a part of that, I believe – and I don't have any inside information about this – is that when he first came here he said, pretty much that, he wanted to stay on the West Coast because Japan, it was new to him, everything was new," Maddon added. "I think the guy's been Americanized, he's kind of like captured the hearts of pretty much everybody in this country. I think right now you can go anywhere to play baseball and feel good about it, I do. He's adaptable anywhere right now. That opens up everything. Including Canada, I mean, he'll go anywhere I think now to play baseball. There's gonna be a lotta suitors."

And, obviously, it is going to take a lot of money to get a deal done.

"Shohei's gotta go to free agency. He has to," Maddon said. "And once he arrives there, somebody's not gonna get outbid. There's several teams that are not gonna get outbid on this one. So if you're willing to spend an exorbitant amount of money that exceeds – with all the other people [and] the contracts you have in place – truly to do that, you might have a shot."

If the Angels have any chance at re-signing, Maddon said, they will have to go deep into the playoffs. But he classified the Angels' chances of re-signing Ohtani as "not very good" before adding that if Los Angeles falls out of contention the AL West club has to make a trade before the deadline.

April 20, 11:02 a.m.

Ohtani is set to become a free agent after the season, but he could be a former Angel sooner than that.

Speaking on Get Up, ESPN's Jeff Passan detailed the situation:

"There's one number that we need to be looking at when it comes to Shohei Ohtani's future, and that is the Los Angeles Angels' record," Passan explained. "Because as long as the Angels are in contention, as long as the Angels have hope for a playoff spot, Shohei Ohtani's probably not going to be traded at the deadline this year.

"But if the Angels fall out of contention, and if it's just more of the same as it's been over the last five years that he's been there, he could be traded, and he will definitely leave."

The Angels are 9-9, 3.0 games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West and 1.5 games out of the third Wild Card spot.

The Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers are the two teams most often linked to Ohtani as it pertains to potential suitors should he reach free agency.

March 24, 10:55 p.m.

After taking home World Baseball Classic MVP honors and striking out teammate Mike Trout to cap Japan’s win, potential Mets target Shohei Ohtani’s appetite for big games and big moments has only increased.

“I definitely felt that experiencing win-or-go-home,” Ohtani said Friday, via, when asked about the big WBC moments and playing in the World Series one day.

"I definitely felt like I want to experience that here, too. It was my first time starting pitching and playing in a playoff atmosphere like that since my days in Japan, so it was a little different. I felt like this is what baseball should be all about. I’ve never experienced the World Series, and it's hard to tell you [what that would be like], but my guess is it would be something similar.”

The Los Angeles Angels have not made the playoffs during his five seasons with the club. However, they are projected to finish above .500 in the latest PECOTA projections, which gives them a 53.1-percent chance of making their first postseason trip since 2015.

But Ohtani, who will be a free agent this offseason, added that his performance in big-time moments this spring and his impending free agency won’t change his contract situation with the Angles.

“I don't think it really changes anything in regards to free agency, but I definitely want to win a ring with the Angels,” Ohtani said. "I have a week to prepare. So I’ll rest up, prepare and be ready.”

Feb. 27, 6:10 p.m.

Shohei Ohtani's future with the Los Angeles Angles is riding on the team making the playoffs this season, Mike Trout tells Jon Heyman of the New York Post.

In an interview with Heyman on Monday, Trout said "this is the year for sure" to break their postseason drought, before adding that it "has got to be the year... it's got to be."

“Especially if we want to keep Shohei,” Trout said. “We win and get to the playoffs, he’d think about it a little bit more.”

The Angels have a 57.6 percent chance to make the postseason as of Monday's PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus, but they only have a 37.4 percent chance according to FanGraphs.

Of course, even if they beat the odds, many around baseball believe Ohtani is headed for free agency this offseason.

The Angels have not had a winning season since 2015, and outside of Trout, there is not much talent on the big league roster. On top of that, they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

If the season starts poorly, they could be faced with a decision: deal their two-way star before the trade deadline or risk losing him for nothing but a draft pick if he leaves in free agency. And nobody expects Angles owner Artie Moreno to strike a deal with Ohtani on an extension during the season, like San Diego just did with Manny Machado.

If the 28-year-old phenom ends up on the open market, the Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers are expected to be two of the most obvious landing spots.

Feb. 21, 12:30 p.m.

As many assume, Los Angeles Angles superstar Shohei Ohtani appears headed for free agency this offseason.

Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo from CAA Sports, hinted to reporters on Monday afternoon that his client will probably test the open market this offseason, according to ESPN.

“Shohei's earned the right to play through the year, explore free agency, and we'll see where it shakes out,” Balelo said.

He added that Ohtani has “always been open” to negotiating a contract extension with the organization. He wouldn't comment on the status of talks, but Ohtani recently indicated that they haven't been "deep."

Ohtani also danced around questions about whether or not he wanted to return, saying "as of now I'm an Angel, and that's all I want to focus on."

Balelo kept that stance, saying that for right now, Ohtani is just taking things day-by-day.

“Shohei's been here five years, now this is his final year. Now we have free agency, so of course there's gonna be a lot of questions, what does he wanna do, where's he gonna go, all of it. And I've said this so many times and Shohei has said it as well -- we really take it day by day, one day at a time.”

Feb. 16, 11:58 a.m.

Pending free agent and possible Mets target Shohei Ohtani had a news availability at Los Angeles Angels camp in front of dozens of local and national reporters to discuss his future.

While the 28-year-old danced around whether or not he wanted to return, saying "as of now I'm an Angel and that's all I want to focus on," he did shed some light on the state of negotiations with Los Angeles.

Ohtani noted that he hasn't had any "deep" conversations with the team about his future there.

Feb. 15, 12:46 p.m.

Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout told reporters on Wednesday that he's intent on keeping pending free agent and possible Mets target Shohei Ohtani with the Angels.

"I’m going to do everything I can to keep Shohei (Ohtani) here," Trout said.

Angels owner Arte Moreno, who has abandoned his plan to sell the team, recently reiterated his desire to keep Ohtani.

"I’d like to keep Ohtani," Moreno told Jon Heyman of The New York Post. "He’s one of a kind, He’s a great person. He’s obviously one of the most popular baseball players in the world, and he’s an international star. He’s a great teammate. He works hard. He’s a funny guy, and he has a really good rapport with fans."

Added Moreno about signing Ohtani: "I’d like to say we have as good a chance as anybody."