Winter Meetings roundup: Ohtani-Angels reunion? Trade talks heating up?

December 5th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With the entire baseball world gathered at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel for the annual Winter Meetings, one question has been asked more than any other.

“Where do you think Shohei Ohtani signs?”

Nobody knows where the two-time American League Most Valuable Player will sign, let alone how much money the two-way superstar will get despite not being able to pitch until 2025.

The industry consensus all offseason has been that Ohtani will wind up moving 30 miles up I-5 to Dodger Stadium, but sources say that two other teams -- the Blue Jays and Angels -- remain firmly in play.

It has been assumed that Ohtani would be leaving Anaheim, looking for a club with a better opportunity to win. But multiple sources have speculated that a reunion with the Angels remains a realistic possibility, as owner Arte Moreno knows what Ohtani means to his franchise both on the field and to the club’s bottom line. One source speculated that Ohtani is a creature of habit who has enjoyed his time in Anaheim, so as long as the money is there, the idea of staying put is appealing to him.

New Angels manager Ron Washington even added a little fuel to the fire Monday during his media availability.

Asked if he’s been paying attention to the Ohtani sweepstakes, Washington said, “I don't have anything to say about that right now, because I don't want to let anything out the bag.”

The Blue Jays are also taking their best shot at Ohtani, though it’s unknown whether he is open to the idea of moving to the Eastern Time Zone -- let alone to Canada.

The only thing we know for certain is that Ohtani’s status is holding up much of the market, as free agents such as and are unlikely to sign before Ohtani makes his decision. The same goes for much of the trade market, specifically , who is generating plenty of interest as the Padres consider moving the All-Star slugger.

Though many people arrived in Nashville with the impression that Ohtani could sign during the Meetings, it now seems that his free agency could extend into next week and possibly beyond.

Timeline for Yamamoto?
Ohtani isn’t the only free agent clogging up the market, as Yoshinobu Yamamoto -- the three-time Sawamura Award winner and Pacific League MVP -- is also expected to wait until at least next week before signing with a Major League club.

Yamamoto has a robust market that includes the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Blue Jays, Dodgers and Cubs among others. Yamamoto is expected to land a contract north of $200 million, and just as a number of hitters are waiting for the Ohtani domino to fall, free-agent pitchers including and and teams with star pitchers to trade -- the Brewers (), Rays () and White Sox () -- are likely doing the same with Yamamoto.

Homeward bound
Erick Fedde, who pitched for the Nationals from 2017-22, is close to a return to the Majors, as a source told that the pitcher is closing in on a two-year deal worth at least $5 million per season. It appears his decision is coming down to the White Sox and Mets, and a deal could be finalized by Tuesday.

Which team Fedde will be joining remains a mystery at the moment, but after going 20-6 with a 2.00 ERA for the NC Dinos and winning KBO MVP honors in 2023, there were multiple teams interested in his services. Fedde, who will be 31 on Opening Day, had a 21-33 record with a 5.41 ERA in 102 career games (88 starts) with Washington.

Fedde wouldn’t be the first pitcher to return to the Majors after a stint in the KBO. Merrill Kelly pitched in Korea for four seasons before signing with the D-backs in 2019, while Chris Flexen pitched in the KBO in 2020 before signing with the Mariners the following season.

Options for IKF
Isiah Kiner-Falefa is drawing interest from several teams, a source said, giving him options as he searches for his next club.

Not only does Kiner-Falefa have options on teams, but he appears to have alternatives when it comes to the role he will play. Some teams are looking at the 28-year-old as a potential starter at shortstop or third base, while others view him in a super-utility role. 

Kiner-Falefa spent the past two years with the Yankees, playing six different positions for New York -- and even pitching four innings. He is expected to land a multi-year deal.

Lobby chatter
Kiké Hernandez is receiving interest from a number of playoff-caliber teams in need of a center fielder, a source said, as he is viewed as one of the better defensive alternatives on the market.
• One source predicted that Bellinger’s free agency could last “a long time” given that the outfielder -- who was non-tendered only one year ago -- is seeking a contract north of the eight years and $162 million Brandon Nimmo received from the Mets last year.
• One industry insider predicted that even after acquiring Jarred Kelenic from the Mariners and signing Joe Jiménez, Reynaldo López and Pierce Johnson for a combined $70.3 million, the Braves aren’t done.

“The Braves have another big move in them,” the source said, adding that Atlanta GM Alex Anthopoulos “is lathered up.”