Blue Jays beat reporters suspected something was up yesterday when a scheduled meeting with Toronto general manager Ross Atkins at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Nashville was mysteriously changed to a Zoom call shortly before the appointed time due to “a scheduling conflict”. Manager John Schneider’s media availability was also pushed from Monday to Tuesday afternoon.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required) may have figured out the reason for the scheduling conflict, breaking news that “[Blue Jays] club officials are believed to have met Monday with [Shohei Ohtani] at the team’s spring-training complex in Dunedin, Fla.”
Shi Davidi of Sportsnet added that “The Angels hold spring training in Arizona so Shohei Ohtani wouldn't be familiar with Florida facilities. That he's believed to have taken the time to see the Blue Jays' [player development complex] first-hand, as @Ken_Rosenthal reports, suggests, at minimum, some real due diligence on his part.”
Wow! Is this potentially really happening? With the bidding now rumoured to be heading north of $600M?
And before we get too far ahead of ourselves, Rosenthal also notes that “It is not known whether Ohtani is close to a deal with any team. His free agency remains shrouded in secrecy, and officials with interested teams say his agent, Nez Balelo, has warned them that leaking any details of the process would be held against them.” Does this news story Rosenthal broke qualify as a “leak”?
Ben Nicholson-Smith made the case before this news broke on how the new $100M Dunedin spring training complex, which opened in 2021, would play a key role in the Blue Jays’ sales pitch to Ohtani. Indeed, Rosenthal notes that “As a member of the Angels, Ohtani played at the Jays’ home park, Rogers Centre. He has not previously seen the team’s $100 million training complex.”
Atkins wasn’t letting on to anything cooking: as Keegan Matheson of MLB.com noted, “Atkins sat in front of a blank, white wall Monday afternoon, speaking over Zoom with a small group of reporters all located in Nashville, where the MLB Winter Meetings are underway.” When pressed by reporters on his whereabouts, Atkins cryptically said, “I wanted to make sure that I was with you, and Zoom permitted that.”
Sounds like something is definitely cooking. Can Blue Jays fans dare to dream that Shohei Ohtani could add his powerful lefty swinging AL MVP bat to their hitting lineup in 2024, and then replace countryman Yusei Kikuchi in the rotation from 2025 after recovering from his second elbow surgery? We can clearly dare to dream!