Home Sport MLB Free Agents 2023: Latest Predictions for Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, More

MLB Free Agents 2023: Latest Predictions for Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, More

by Mat Lee
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MLB Free Agents 2023: Latest Predictions for Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, More

MLB Free Agents 2023: Latest Predictions for Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, More

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    Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani listens to the national anthem before the team's baseball game against the Oakland Athletics Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

    AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez

    Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Cody Bellinger figure to be among the most coveted free agents this offseason, with potential World Series contenders bidding on their services.

    Who has already checked in on the teams and where can you expect the players to end up by the time Spring Training kicks off in 2024?

    Find out with these predictions for the headlining free agents.

Shohei Ohtani

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    ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 17: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels in the dugout while playing the Detroit Tigers  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 17, 2023 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

    John McCoy/Getty Images

    Two-way player Shohei Ohtani is expected to be the most coveted free agent this offseason, even with the understanding that he will not be able to pitch again until 2025 following arm surgery.

    Following a season that ended prematurely with 44 home runs, 95 RBIs, and 102 runs, he is still a potent offensive weapon and the most recognizable star in the game today.

    It is that explosiveness at the plate, and workmanlike performance on the mound, that makes him the most captivating star in the sport and will have contenders looking to dig deep into their pockets to ink him to a deal.

    New San Francisco Giants manager Bob Melvin expects his organization to make a run at the 29-year-old. The Dodgers view Ohtani as their No. 1 target this offseason. The Angels, for whatever reason, remain optimistic they can somehow convince him to stay.

    There will be teams lining up to pitch (pun not intended) themselves to the greatest individual player of his generation.

    But which will ultimately land him?

    The Dodgers.

    Los Angeles is the one team, from the moment it became clear that Ohtani would hit free agency, that has been linked to him. They are a big market team, can afford a contract the likes of which the player will command, and are ready to win now.

    Does the team need help with pitching before Ohtani can step back on the mound? Most definitely, but adding him to the team this winter will make for an offensive firepower that few teams in the league can match run-for-run. From there, it will be on the front office to compile enough affordable pitching talent to keep opponents from scoring one more than them.

    Either way, the reports have been prevalent enough that if Ohtani does not end up with the Dodgers, it has to be considered a major loss for the organization.

    Prediction: Ohtani to the Dodgers

Yoshinobu Yamamoto

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    MIAMI, FL - MARCH 20: Yoshinobu Yamamoto #18 of Team Japan pitches during the 2023 World Baseball Classic Semifinal game against Team Mexico at loanDepot Park on Monday, March 20, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

    Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

    Yoshinobu Yamamoto is going to be among the hottest pitchers available this winter, thanks to a stellar performance in the World Baseball Classic and his young age of 25.

    Add what he did for the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball, which included a 1.16 ERA, 176 strikeouts and a 0.860 WHIP, and you have plenty of reason for teams to be jockeying for a chance to sign him to their starting rotation.

    The New York Mets, Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers have all expressed interest in the player, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic reported that the San Francisco Giants will not be outbid for the potential ace.

    Will Sammon, also of The Athletic, reported that Yamamoto covets the opportunity to play in a big market.

    All of those aforementioned options fit that description, but the Giants have shown the most interest, by far. So much so that president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi paused the search for a new general manager to personally go to Japan and scout him.

    The desire to bring him on board and bolster a rotation that had a team ERA over 4.0 may be too strong even for the higher-profile Dodgers and Yankees to overcome. What might help the Mets, though, is the established friendship between Yamamoto and Kodai Senga, who the team signed in free agency a season ago and patiently watched develop into the squad’s best starter.

    The Mets will absolutely be a player, and the argument could be made that he fits that team better at this point, but the sheer determination of Zaidi to close the deal amid mounting pressure from ownership and fans, should make them the favorites.

    Prediction: Giants land Yamamoto

Cody Bellinger

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    MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 30: Cody Bellinger #24 of the Chicago Cubs looks on in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field on September 30, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images)

    Matt Dirksen/Getty Images

    In a perfect world, at least for Chicago Cubs fans, Cody Bellinger would follow up his return to form with the organization by re-signing and continuing the team’s climb back to title contention.

    The business of baseball is not a perfect world, however.

    The good news is that the Cubs figure to be in contention to re-sign Bellinger, per Nightengale. The bad news is that the New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, and San Diego Padres do, too.

    ESPN’s Jeff Passan talked up the possibility of a Yankees-Bellinger partnership, suggesting he fills “lefty bat and outfielder holes they have.”

    Talkin’ Yanks @TalkinYanks

    Jeff Passan doesn’t think the Yankees will be in on Shohei Ohtani but he’s not counting them out

    Passan adds that they’ll be “in big” on Yoshinobu Yamamoto and wonders if they’ll get Cody Bellinger to fill the lefty bat and outfielder holes they have

    (via @JacobKaye_) pic.twitter.com/E4d4rUNHse

    All potential suitors are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of Bellinger, but an embarrassed Yankees team that finished second-to-last in the AL East and missed the postseason are going to be tough to thwart if it is decided they truly want to bring the former NL MVP into the mix.

    The Padres have displayed a willingness to spend big in the offseason, and the Giants are looking to return to relevancy, but the Yankees are in a position in which they are at the bottom of their division looking up and they see Bellinger as someone who can help them change the view.

    Prediction: Bellinger signs with New York

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