Shohei Ohtani met with the Dodgers a few days ago at Dodger Stadium, manager Dave Roberts revealed Tuesday at baseball’s Winter Meetings.
The two-way star is expected to command a record contract of $500 million-plus on the free agent market coming off his second AL MVP award in three seasons.
The Dodgers manager said the front office is working tirelessly with lots of scenarios and ways free agency could go.
“Clearly Shohei’s our top priority,” Roberts said. “So I still think that we’ve got a lot of people working on other things ultimately to be the best ball club we can be.”
Roberts said Ohtani has a “very good poker face,” keeping the manager from drawing any clues from a meeting that lasted 2-3 hours.
“We want to respect Shohei’s wishes as far as being private,” Roberts said, “but obviously people talk. I don’t think I need to share what we talked about.”
Roberts at first hesitated before giving a few details.
“Yeah, we met with him,” he 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.”
Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes said later Tuesday he was “surprised” his manager shared news of the meeting with Ohtani. Details on Ohtani’s free agency have been sparse amid reports his side has demanded negotiations remain private.
Gomes, who said the Dodgers brought a large party to these meetings, refused to share any details because they’re not supposed to talk about current free agents.
Asked about what Ohtani brings the team he chooses to sign with, Gomes called him a dynamic player.
“It’s just not something I’ve ever seen,” Gomes said. “A special talent and has the ability to change the game in a special way.”
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins also dodged questions about whether Toronto has met with Ohtani, saying only that they are doing everything they can to make the team better.
“Some meetings that occur, that don’t occur, I’m not going to get into the specifics of,” Atkins said.
Ohtani led the AL with 44 homers and hit .304 with 95 RBIs, 8 triples, and 20 stolen bases for the Angels in a season that ended Sept. 3 because of an oblique injury.
He was 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 23 starts on the mound, striking out 167 and walking 55 in 132 innings before tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on Aug. 23. He had surgery on Sept. 19 that will keep him off the mound until 2025.
Ohtani has not spoken with reporters since Aug. 9, failing to get on a conference call after his MVP award.
Roberts said he wasn’t sure if the meeting was a pitch considering Ohtani has a pretty good idea about both the Dodgers and Los Angeles after six years in the league. Roberts said speaking for the Dodgers that it was a pleasure spending time with Ohtani.
Ohtani met with the Dodgers before signing with the Angels in December 2017 for a $2,315,000 bonus — because of his age, he was restricted by the amount of teams’ international signing bonus pools. Roberts said that meeting was selling the city, country, the organization, and his potential role.
Former players to honor Negro Leagues
CC Sabathia is getting ready to take the mound again next spring, five years after his retirement, to pitch in a tribute to the Negro Leagues All-Star Game at the Hall of Fame’s Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“My career ended with me ripping my shoulder up and not being able to throw a baseball anymore, but I’m rehabbing myself to be able to come back and pitch an inning in this game,” the 43-year-old lefthander said at the Winter Meetings.
Ken Griffey Jr. and Ozzie Smith have agreed to manage or coach at the May 25 Hall of Fame East-West Classic. It will be played in conjunction with the opening of the Hall’s “Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball” exhibit.
The Negro Leagues East-West All-Star Game began at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in September 1933, two months after MLB’s first All-Star Game at the same ballpark, and was played annually through 1962.
Jerry and Scott Hairston, whose grandfather Sam played for the Cincinnati and Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro American League, are among the players who said they will participate. Others include Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, David Price, B.J. and Justin Upton, Curtis Granderson, Dontrelle Willis, Adam Jones, Dexter Fowler, LaTroy Hawkins, and Edwin Jackson.
Thirty-seven of 343 people in the Hall had careers mostly or entirely in the Negro Leagues, including Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Monte Irvin, and Cool Papa Bell.
Public funds to help Brewers
After months of backroom wrangling, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed a bill that spends half-a-billion dollars in taxpayer money over the next three decades to help the Brewers repair their stadium.
The bill calls for a state contribution of $365.8 million doled out in annual payments through 2050. The city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County will contribute a combined $135 million.
The Brewers, for their part, will spend $110 million and extend their lease at the stadium through 2050.
The governor signed the bipartisan package at American Family Field, calling the legislation a compromise agreement between the team and the public. Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio and former baseball commissioner and team owner Bud Selig appeared alongside Evers.
The Brewers say the 22-year-old stadium needs extensive renovation. The stadium’s glass outfield doors, seats, and concourses need replacing, the stadium’s luxury suites and video scoreboard need upgrades, and the stadium’s signature retractable roof, fire suppression systems, parking lots, elevators, and escalators need work, according to the team.
Bregman not going anywhere
Astros general manager Dana Brown says the team isn’t exploring trades for Alex Bregman, even though the All-Star third baseman’s contract is set to expire after next season. Brown addressed Bregman’s status amid speculation the Astros were looking to move him before he reaches free agency. Brown added that there have been no new negotiations on a possible extension. Bregman, who hit .262 with 25 homers, 28 doubles, and 98 RBIs last season, will make $28.5 million in the final year of a five-year, $100 million contract … Gerry Fraley, a gregarious and tempestuous reporter over four decades for the Clearwater Sun, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dallas Morning News, and Sporting News until his death in May 2019 at age 64 after a two-year battle with cancer, won the BBWAA Career Excellence Award, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced at the Winter Meetings. Fraley, who received 173 of 370 ballots from BBWAA members with 10 or more consecutive years’ service, will be honored during Hall of Fame induction weekend July 19-22 in Cooperstown, N.Y. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Bruce Jenkins received 113 votes and New York Post baseball columnist Joel Sherman got 83 … Shortstop José Iglesias agreed to a minor league contract with the Mets and will report to big league spring training. He hit .292 with three homers and 47 RBIs for the Rockies last season. The 11-year veteran had two stints with the Red Sox (2011-13, 2021) and was an All-Star in 2015 with Detroit, when he batted .300 with 2 homers, 23 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases.