Where Shohei Ohtani, Juan Soto and Yoshinobu Yamamoto rumors stand as Winter Meetings begin

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The MLB Winter Meetings are where the magic happens. Small deals have been made here and there, and plenty of groundwork has been made. However, the Winter Meetings are when blockbuster moves are made.

The meetings begin Monday in Nashville, Tennessee, and three names far and away lead the pack among the most talked about: Shohei Ohtani, Juan Soto and Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

Ohtani is a free agent for the first time, Soto is again on the trade market, and Yamamoto is a Japanese import who, if you don’t know now, you will soon.

So, here are the latest rumors surrounding the three hottest commodities in baseball:

Shohei Ohtani

If Ohtani’s contract is not record-breaking, it would be a surprise. Right now, the most lucrative contract ever is Mike Trout’s 12-year, $426 million deal he signed in 2019. Not only do people expect Ohtani to sign a deal for $500 million, but some even think his deal could start with a six.

The Angels, Dodgers, Cubs and Blue Jays are all reportedly in the Ohtani sweepstakes. The World Series champion Rangers, Mets and Red Sox have all apparently decided to turn their focus elsewhere.

Last month, Ohtani earned his second unanimous MVP Award in the last three seasons, as he led the majors in 2023 with a .654 slugging percentage and 1.066 OPS; his .412 on-base percentage was second; his 44 homers were fourth; and his .304 average was ranked ninth. 

He pitched pretty well, too.

The right-hander owned a 3.14 ERA and struck out 11.4 batters per nine innings. Among pitchers who threw 130.0 innings, his ERA was the ninth-lowest in MLB, and his K/9 was sixth. Among AL pitchers with that number of innings, he ranked fifth and third, respectively. 

Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery in September and will not pitch in 2024, but it does not seem like that is hurting his price.

Shohei Ohtani pitches against the Mariners

Juan Soto

For the second year in a row, Juan Soto is on the block.

The San Diego Padres are aiming to shed some money while simultaneously filling in their rotation that could lose, well, just about everyone to free agency.

At one point, it seemed like the New York Yankees had been the most active, but the two sides remain far apart on a deal.

The Padres reportedly asked for Michael King as well as up to six prospects for Soto, who is said to want to test free agency this time next year, no matter what. So, understandably so, the Yankees are having difficulty parting ways with that much capital for what could be a one-year rental.

A new report has a surprise team as the favorites – the Blue Jays.

The Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants are also thought of as possible candidates for the 25-year-old.

Soto had a down in 2022, but showed his talent last year by hitting .275 with 35 homers, 109 RBI and a .930 OPS. He led the majors in walks last season for the third time in his career, with 132. In his career, he owns a .946 OPS, he is the active career leader in on-base percentage (.421), and he has four top-nine MVP finishes – he finished sixth this past season.

EXPOS HALL OF FAMER ANDRE DAWSON WANTS CAP ON COOPERSTOWN PLAQUE CHANGED

Yoshinobu Yamamoto

The Japanese import seems destined for New York, but it is a matter of which team.

The Mets may have moved off from Ohtani, but SNY reported that Yamamoto is their “current focus.”

It is believed that Yamamoto could sign for a record-breaking deal. A $200 million pact would be the most lucrative ever for a player just entering the majors. It will also likely be the most ever given to any Japanese player in the history of baseball until Ohtani signs an anticipated record-breaking deal.

However, ESPN noted he could sign for over $250 million. Naturally, the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox and Cubs are said to be in the mix, as well. On Sunday, the Giants were said to have “the edge.”

The Yankees, though, apparently want Yamamoto so badly, they refrained from giving out his No. 18 to players last year.

In seven seasons in Japan, Yamamoto has pitched for a 1.72 ERA. With the Orix Buffaloes this year, his ERA was 1.21. In Game 6 of the Japan Series, he threw 138 pitches and struck out 14 batters in a 5-1 victory. His highest ERA in a single season in Japan was the 2.35 he posted in 2017.

The stove is hot – get ready everyone.

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