Phillips believes Blue Jays are the current 'favourites' to land Ohtani
Baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani has yet to make his decision on what is expected to be the richest free agent contract in sports history, but TSN Baseball Insider Steve Phillips is leaning toward the Toronto Blue Jays as being the current frontrunner to land the generational talent from Japan.
Phillips joined TSN 1050's First Up on Wednesday morning and said that despite the Los Angeles Dodgers still being major contenders, he would give the Jays a "greater than 50 per cent chance" of signing Ohtani.
"I would personally think the Blue Jays are the favourite right now. I would give them a greater than 50 per cent chance of landing him [Ohtani]," he said. "I think it's still really close with the Dodgers. I think the Dodgers can easily make a case. It's L.A., there's some comfort there. It is different, it's the bigger payday. It's the continuous chance to win. They've won more recently [and] regularly than the Jays have if that's a factor there. The medical care that he has undergone, a lot of it has been in Los Angeles, so there's some comfort and some need from his perspective to be close to those people, so you can make a case for the Dodgers for sure.
"But, I would believe that the brand aspect of this would give the Blue Jays a better chance than the Dodgers right now."
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Blue Jays met with Ohtani in Florida on Monday at the team's spring-training facility.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts also confirmed to the media on Tuesday that the team has met with Ohtani recently despite Ohtani's camp reportedly wanting to keep any negotiations or details of meetings behind closed doors.
“Yeah, we met with him,” Roberts 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.”
In addition to the Blue Jays and Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants as well as the Los Angeles Angels have all been rumoured to be in the mix for Ohtani over the past few days and weeks. Ohtani's contract is expected to easily reach the $500 million mark and could potentially reach $600 million.
Ohtani, a 29-year-old native of Oshu, Japan, won his second American League MVP award in 2023, hitting .304 with 44 home runs and 95 RBIs alongside an on-base percentage of .412 and a slugging percentage of .654. The three-time All-Star also posted a 10-5 record on the mound with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts over 132 innings pitched.
The two-way player is not expected to pitch in 2024 after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery in September, but is expected to be ready for Spring Training as a hitter.
Over six seasons with the Angels, Ohtani has a .274 average with 171 homers and 437 RBIs over 701 games as well as a 3.01 ERA over 86 starts.