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Los Angeles Dodgers viewed as ‘early favorite’ to sign Shohei Ohtani next winter

Los Angeles Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani is one of the best players in MLB. As he heads into his final season with the Angels, Ohtani is poised to become one of the most coveted free agents in MLB history next winter.

Turning 29 in July, the 6-foot-4 slugger and pitcher is appealing to teams for a number of reasons. In terms of his talent, he can hit some of the longest home runs ever and he’s a perennial Cy Young candidate and one of the favorites to win MLB MVP.

  • Shohei Ohtani contract: $30 million salary in 2023, 2024 free agent

Related: MLB exec believes surprise team could be ‘high bidder’ for Shohei Ohtani

Ohtani is also emerging as the face of baseball. Representing Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, he is one of the most marketable players in the sport with countless fans going to games to see him every year.

It all sets the stage for the largest bidding war in MLB history. A year after Aaron Judge became one of the highest-paid MLB players in 2023, Ohtani is expected to make league history next winter with one of the largest contracts in the history of sports.

  • Shohei Ohtani stats 2022 (hitting): .273/.356/.519, 34 home runs, 95 RBI, 142 wRC+

The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees are all expected to be among the teams pursuing the 2021 AL MVP. However, there might already be an early favorite to land him.

Related: Shohei Ohtani expected to prioritize two factors in free-agency decision

According to the New York Post‘s Jon Heyman, folks around the league believe the Dodgers are the ‘very early favorites’ to land Ohtani in free agency.

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  • Shohei Ohtani pitching stats (2022): 2.33 ERA, 11.87 K.9, 33.2% K-rate, .202 BAA

It’s a logical projection from people involved in the industry. Ohtani chose the Angels in part because he wanted to be a co-star, not thrust into the spotlight with an entire organization on his shoulders. The Dodgers could offer him the opportunity to play with Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts and Will Smith.

Related: MLB agents expect Shohei Ohtani contract to set records

Los Angeles also has additional factors going for it. First, unlike the Angels, the Dodgers are a perennial World Series threat and competing for a championship is atop Ohtani’s wishlist. Furthermore, he reportedly prefers to play on the West Coast and signing with the Dodgers meets that criteria.

The Dodgers didn’t spend heavily this offseason, eating Trevor Bauer’s contract before releasing him and using this offseason to reset things financially. While there will be a fierce bidding war for Ohtani, it stands to reason the Dodgers, Padres, Giants and Mariners are in advantageous positions compared to their rivals on the other side of the country.