Waiting for Shohei: MLB free agent market slows as Ohtani considers big money

Waiting for Shohei: MLB free agent market slows as Ohtani considers big money

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Baseball awaits Shohey.

It appears that big-name free agents are in no rush to make deals at the winter meetings, biding their time until Shohei Ohtani potentially breaks Mike Trout’s record for the richest contract in 4 1/2 years.

It could be Japanese free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto who is holding up the starting pitching market.

“It’s probably going to be a little slower from a conversation standpoint at the winter meetings than it normally would be,” David Stearns, New York Mets president of baseball operations, said Monday. “The likelihood is that the top of the free-agent market has not moved yet, and it often takes the top of the free-agent market to move for the rest of the dominoes to fall.”

Ohtani, a two-way unicorn who has won two of the last three AL MVP awards for the Los Angeles Angels, is expected to receive a deal worth more than $500 million — though he won’t play again until 2025 after elbow surgery.

Trout’s contract was worth $426.5 million over 12 years.

There was no sign at the winter meetings of Nez Palillo, Ohtani’s representative at Creative Artists Agency, in contrast to the many other agents who work the spacious lobbies and suites of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center for conversations involving their clients.

Behind Ohtani in the pecking order are Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman, both of whom are represented by the sport’s top agent, Scott Boras. Among rookie pitchers, the market includes Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, who Boras also represents.

San Francisco Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi wants to speed up negotiations this offseason.

“I talked to some people today about how there was some talk about setting a deadline for multi-year deals in the last CBA,” he said. “Entrepreneurs who want to sell tickets and capitalize on fan enthusiasm have less time to do so when those deals happen in January than they do in November or December.”

Toronto general manager Ross Atkins, like Balillo, may be out of position. His briefing with Blue Jays writers was moved on short notice to Zoom, with Atkins citing a scheduling conflict.

While San Diego’s Juan Soto was the biggest name mentioned in trade talks, the first deal announced in Nashville was a less high-profile swap. The Atlanta Braves acquired outfielder Jared Kelenic, pitcher Marco Gonzalez and infielder Evan White from the Seattle Mariners late Sunday in favor of right-handed pitchers Cole Phillips and Jackson Cowar. Seattle will send Atlanta $4.5 million on Aug. 1, offsetting part of the $29 million guaranteed by Gonzalez and White.

Seattle dealt third baseman Eugenio Suarez to Arizona last month for reliever Carlos Vargas and catcher Sepe Zavala.

“If you look at the trade and the type of team we have as we try to build on it going forward in 2024 and 2025, you need to have some flexibility,” Mariners manager Scott Service said. “This is probably what forced the trade as much as anything else.”

Milwaukee finalized an eight-year, $82 million contract with 19-year-old rookie Jackson Choryu, the largest amount guaranteed for a player without much major league experience — excluding Japanese pros.

“There is definitely a little pressure on this, but I will work hard,” Chorio said through a translator. “This money will not change me. If something changes, it will definitely be for the better.”

Milwaukee also agreed to an $8.5 million, one-year contract to retain left fielder Wade Miley, a deal that includes a mutual option for 2025 and could be worth $24 million over two seasons.

“He means a lot to the team. He’s unbelievable in the clubhouse. He’s a guy who makes other pitchers better,” new Brewers manager Pat Murphy said. “He’s going to make other pitchers better.”


AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.


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