Amid this offseason's free-agent spending spree across Major League Baseball, several teams already have their eye on the biggest prize who will be available next year: Shohei Ohtani.
Per ESPN's Alden Gonzalez, rival agents and executives cited the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants as the most likely suitors for the 2021 American League MVP.
The Mets are going to be a wild card in everything because of how much owner Steve Cohen has been willing to spend.
Even after failing to finalize their agreement with Carlos Correa, the Mets are still projected to have a $351 million payroll next season. They are already projected to be over the $237 million tax line in 2024 with $249 million in salary commitments.
If the Mets are going to keep chasing superstars with Cohen in the owner's chair, it's hard to find any player in MLB who generates more interest than Ohtani.
Gonzalez noted agents and executives mentioned the Dodgers as a potential landing spot for Ohtani more than any other team.
It would make sense based on how Los Angeles' front office has operated this offseason. The team wasn't in on any of the top free agents after losing Trea Turner, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger.
The Dodgers' largest deal given out so far this offseason was a one-year, $20 million contract to re-sign Clayton Kershaw.
As things stand right now, their 2023 payroll is projected to be about $7 million under the $233 million competitive balance tax line.
If the Dodgers keep their payroll under $233 million for the 2023 season, they will reset their luxury tax after paying into it each of the past two seasons. The penalty for exceeding the tax three consecutive years is 50 percent of every dollar spent over the threshold.
Looking ahead to 2024, Spotrac estimates the Dodgers having only $90.7 million in luxury-tax payroll.
The Giants tried to land one of the top free agents this offseason. They reportedly offered Aaron Judge a deal in the neighborhood of the same $360 million he wound up accepting from the New York Yankees.
After missing out on Judge, the Giants pivoted to Correa. They got him to agree to a 13-year, $350 million deal before it fell through because of concerns over his physical.
San Francisco only has a projected $112.7 million in luxury tax-payroll for 2024, though its chances of landing Ohtani could depend on how well the team performs in 2023.
Ohtani has been stuck in a situation with the Los Angeles Angels where they spend on talent, but it hasn't produced positive results.
Despite having Ohtani and Mike Trout playing together for the past five seasons, the Angels haven't had a winning record since 2015 and have only made the playoffs once since 2010.
Ohtani has a .267/.354/.532 slash line with 127 homers and 66 stolen bases in 566 games as a hitter. He owns a 2.96 ERA, 1.09 WHIP with 441 strikeouts over 349.2 innings over 63 starts as a pitcher.