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Shohei Ohtani Rumors: MLB World 'Expects' Angels Star to Hit Free Agency After Season

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 13, 2023

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 27, 2022 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Angels re-signed Mike Trout before he became a free agent, thus avoiding a historic bidding war. They might not get so lucky with Shohei Ohtani.

ESPN's Buster Olney reported "the baseball world expects" Ohtani to make it known he's hitting the open market in 2024. He and the Angels agreed to a $30 million salary for the 2023 season, which was his final year of team control.

Trout's 12-year, $426.5 million contract remains the biggest in MLB history, but he may not hold the record for much longer.

Jeff Passan of ESPN reported in December on The Pat McAfee Show that Ohtani and the San Diego Padres' Juan Soto are in great positions to break the $500 million threshold. Soto reportedly turned down a 15-year, $440 million offer when he was a member of the Washington Nationals.

When you're talking sums of money that large, it's never a foregone conclusion that a star player will stay with his current team, even if in the Angels case they have a precedent from the Trout extension.

Los Angeles' ongoing ownership drama presents another variable with Ohtani's future. Arte Moreno announced last August he's exploring a potential sale, and the implications of that can be viewed two ways when it comes to Ohtani.

Handing out a $500 million-plus contract is a little easier if you know you're not going to be personally on the hook for a majority of the deal's term. Having the 2021 American League MVP on the roster presumably helps bolster the Angels' value as a franchise as well.

Of course, not all prospective ownership candidates may share that view, so re-signing Ohtani could risk adversely impacting any sale. Not every new MLB owner takes after Steven Cohen, who hasn't shy about showering cash on elite talent since taking control of the Mets.

As things stand, Ohtani is set to trigger perhaps the most dramatic free-agency sweepstakes ever in baseball.