The lingering feelings from the last time Shohei Ohtani was free to talk to all 30 major league teams, in the fall of 2017, probably range from resignation to frustration to anger, because with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, many executives who didn't land Ohtani believe the courting process was a colossal waste of time.
Teams spent hundreds of hours preparing elaborate presentations in their effort to lure Ohtani, and in the end, some of the execs believe, even the most perfectly crafted PowerPoint or the most stirring video would have made zero difference in Ohtani's decision. "He was going to the Angels all along," said one rival official. "I can't tell you why that is, but for it to play out the way that it did, he must've made up his mind way before he talked with everybody."
But here's the thing -- the executives who walked away from that lightning round of Ohtani speed dating will gladly try again this fall, when the greatest two-way player in baseball history is expected to reach free agency. Because he's that great. A middle-of-the-order slugger and an ace pitcher with the pure stuff to front any rotation.
Team officials speculate what the most important factors will be when Ohtani weighs offers, from geography (will he want to stay with a West Coast team?) to market intensity (is he actually open to playing in New York?) to team success (an open question because, after all, he once chose the Angels, a team that hasn't won a playoff series since 2009) to money (lots and lots and lots of it).
Evaluators wonder if there will be owners willing to go beyond unimaginable with their financial proposals, and whether that'll actually make a difference to Ohtani, who has already demonstrated an ability to shock in his choices.
"Anybody who tells you they know what's going to happen," said one evaluator, "is completely full of s---."
In this Year of Ohtani, here is some of the early industry conversation going on about where he will sign an expected record-setting contract.