At this point in the Shohei Ohtani Free Agency Sweepstakes™, the baseball world has little substantive left to say about which team is the likeliest winner and which team would benefit the most and which team has potentially hurt its chances by daring to mention contact with the player.
It’s time for a new list: Which team would be the funniest landing spot for Ohtani? Not the best or most reasonable. The funniest.
For the purposes of this ranking, we care not about logic or finances or practicality. This is not about who will sign Ohtani. It is only about whose name would elicit the most delight as the winner.
Here are Ohtani landing spots, ranked by entertainment value:
30. Los Angeles Angels
There is a case to be made that re-signing with the Angels is actually the funniest thing Ohtani could do. After six years of losing in Anaheim, followed by a drawn-out, intensely guarded free-agency process of meeting with other teams, deciding, Actually, I’ll just stay here—that’s funny! That is a plot you could use to model how comedy arises from subverting expectations. Yet baseball has already seen what happens with Ohtani in Anaheim. It was somewhat funny the first time he chose this. Would it really be funny if he chose it again? No. Ohtani and the Angels, first as farce, then as tragedy.
Ohtani returning to the moribund franchise that hasn’t reached the playoffs since before his arrival would be a bad result for everyone in baseball.
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports
29. Oakland (for now) A’s
There is nothing entertaining about the A’s right now.
28. Los Angeles Dodgers
The recent brouhaha over whether Dodgers manager Dave Roberts should or should not have admitted the team met with Ohtani makes this a little funnier. But come on: There is nothing funny about hearing the long-term front-runners have indeed won! If the Dodgers sign Ohtani, it will be smart, reasonable, expected. It will not be that funny.
27. Houston Astros
The most dominant (and most publicly reviled) franchise of the last several years getting the best player on the market would be interesting! It would not be that funny.
26-tie. New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs
Here we have grouped some of baseball’s most iconic franchises. There’s plenty about any of these clubs that could make them intriguing destinations; they’re coming off stretches with varying levels of success (or not) and each would see their immediate fate seriously change with Ohtani. But there’s nothing especially funny in any of the richest, most traditionally successful teams in baseball getting the most anticipated free agent in years. Lots of fascinating baseball implications! Very little humor.
22. Pittsburgh Pirates
O.K., yes, the immediate moment of the announcement would be funny. But everything that follows, reckoning with the idea of the roster around him, the chronically low payroll, the dim future … not so funny.
21. Texas Rangers
Choosing the reigning World Series champs is, again, an intriguing play without being an especially funny one.
20. Cincinnati Reds
If nothing else, it would be very entertaining to get to see Ohtani alongside Elly De La Cruz.
19. Cleveland Guardians
“We are here to dethrone the 2017 signing of Edwin Encarnación for three years and $60 million as the largest free-agent signing in franchise history,” Cleveland might announce. “By, oh, tenfold.”
18. Baltimore Orioles
Perhaps Ohtani just can’t resist the pull of the best farm system in baseball.
17. Seattle Mariners
There’s something inherently entertaining about the choice of an underdog. The Mariners, only recently free of their historic playoff drought yet still the only franchise never to appear in a World Series, fit the bill. But it’s hard to think of “entertaining” as the primary thrust of a team who began its offseason with a salary dump and has seemingly been committed to efficiency lately above all else.
16. Tampa Bay Rays
If you think about it, Ohtani is really the ultimate in Raysian efficiency. Two players in one.
15. Minnesota Twins
We have reached the midway point of our rankings, and we have the ideal middle-of-the-road team. Ohtani to Minnesota sounds unexpected, a tad delusional, putting him on a good roster but not an exceptional one, in an easy division, exciting but not earth-shattering. It would be kind of funny! Not that funny.
14. Atlanta Braves
Here we have a perfect marriage of sensibilities. Atlanta is famously tight-lipped about its transactions, rarely allowing hints of movement to leak to any reporters until the club is ready to announce it on their own. Ohtani has treated his free agency with much of the same secrecy. Think of the one-paragraph joint press release they could release together.
13. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers have pulled off the fascinating trick of going through one rebuild, failing to build much of anything at all, and going straight into another. This is not really a “rebuild” so much as a semi-permanent, questionably successful construction zone. They have made some notable investments in the team in that time. None have really worked. But now, as they stand on the brink of what could potentially be a step forward with their young core, they have the chance to do something pretty funny: Add Ohtani!
12. Washington Nationals
“I just really loved the racing presidents,” Ohtani might say.
11. Milwaukee Brewers
“I just really loved the racing sausages.”
Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., right, finished first and second in 2021 AL MVP voting.
John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports
10. Toronto Blue Jays
Yes, the Blue Jays are one of the more likely candidates here, which is inherently not very entertaining. But following up on all of the lock-and-key secrecy—Toronto moving a media availability with GM Ross Atkins this week to Zoom, rescheduling the availability with manager John Schneider, steadfastly refusing to comment on what looked suspiciously like circumstantial evidence—potentially opens some comedic doors here. Maintain that Ohtani never made a visit. Say he never made contact. Have Atkins at the press conference to say “Shohei Ohtani? Never heard of him.”
9. San Diego Padres
For maximum entertainment value, of course, this would have to happen after the Padres trade Juan Soto.
8. Kansas City Royals
If it’s good enough for Taylor Swift, it’s good enough for Ohtani.
7. Arizona Diamondbacks
The idea of Ohtani watching the Diamondbacks’ improbable October, in which they went from the last wild card to the World Series and, once there, had more bunts than home runs, and deciding, That’s what I want? Yes. Who among us has not been charmed by the outfield pool? Or the sight of the outfield pool being guarded by security?
6. Miami Marlins
May they bring back the dinger machine in celebration.
5. San Francisco Giants
Note: This one is really only funny if Ohtani makes sure to note it was due entirely to the Instagram follow of Logan Webb.
4. New York Mets
The Mets have done as much as possible recently to rid themselves of the Metsiness that is their birthright—the weird, slapstick absurdism that has haunted the franchise for so much of its existence, win or lose. But this past season showed that Metsiness is surprisingly hard to kill, persisting through new ownership, added investment and generally increased competence. And that’s enough to mean that it would still be very, very funny to see Ohtani choose the Mets.
3. Chicago White Sox
2. Philadelphia Phillies
During the 2017 World Baseball Classic—months before Ohtani would be posted in MLB and ultimately decide to play for the Angels—the two-way player gave an interview to MLB’s Jon Morosi. He was asked which American cities he was curious about and which sights he’d like to see. “The Rocky Balboa statue,” Ohtani said. “I want a picture of that.” Morosi teased him a little in response: “Philadelphia has a baseball team, you know.” Ohtani shut that down: “No, I just want to visit there.” Nearly seven years later, it’s still perhaps the most memorable interview moment we have from the famously private Ohtani. And it would be delightful to see him reverse that, choose Philly, find himself on a contender and join the unquestioned vibe kings of the National League.
1. Colorado Rockies
Come on: Who else?