Shohei Ohtani likely will leave the Los Angeles Angels after the 2023 Major League Baseball season, and his free agency decision will be must-watch this offseason.

The Angels boldly claimed they would make a push for the playoffs before the MLB trade deadline. They decided not to pursue an Ohtani trade in hopes that a playoff appearance would entice the superstar to stay.

But a losing streak and multiple injuries later, Los Angeles likely will pay dearly for its mistake and will see Ohtani walk away for nothing.

The 29-year-old also was part of that injury wave when he suffered an elbow injury that shut him down as a pitcher. MLB executives still believe Ohtani will sign a deal that comes at the minimum of $500 million, according to The Athletic’s Jim Bowden on Friday.

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Ohtani still is the biggest star in baseball, he has a brand appeal outside of the United States and there isn’t a star entering the market that comes close to his drawing power.

“According to an industry source briefed on Ohtani’s thinking, although he prefers the West Coast, the potential to win championships will be given more weight than geography, as long as a team is willing to at least match the best offer he receives in free agency,” Bowden wrote.

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“According to that source, Ohtani will enter free agency with “an open mind and his eyes wide open.” That doesn’t mean if all things are equal Ohtani won’t pick a West Coast team over an East Coast or a Midwest team, but that outcome is not a foregone conclusion. Winning trumps everything for him.

“Ohtani wants to be at the center of the biggest stage, which means playing on Halloween every year and multiple visits to the White House as a World Series champion in the coming years. That’s his goal.”

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“So, perhaps it’s in the cards for Ohtani, this generation’s Ruth, to come to Boston and finish his career at Fenway Park.”

MLB insider Jim Bowden making the case for the Red Sox

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been seen as the favorite to be Ohtani’s next team for quite some time, and Bowden ranked them first in his list of teams most likely to sign the star. He had the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and New York Mets in his top five, as well. And he chose the Boston Red Sox to round out the top five.

“The baseball gods might be looking down on the Red Sox and preparing to redeem them, all these years later, for trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees,” Bowden wrote. “So, perhaps it’s in the cards for Ohtani, this generation’s Ruth, to come to Boston and finish his career at Fenway Park — to make up for Ruth finishing his career at Yankee Stadium.

“OK, that tantalizing storyline aside, Fenway Park has always been a haven for left-handed hitters, from Carl Yastrzemski to Fred Lynn to David Ortiz to Rafael Devers. With the Red Sox needing another middle-of-the-order bat and a top-of-the-rotation starter, the fit is obvious. Chris Sale’s $27.5 million salary comes off the books after 2024, so the Red Sox should have financial room to make an Ohtani deal work if they want to go down that road.”

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The New York Yankees were listed as a surprise team due to the financial constraints of the team with Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón on the books.

Ohtani has spoken highly of playing at Fenway Park, and it appears Team Japan teammate Masataka Yoshida and fellow MLB All-Star Kenley Jansen have done their part this year to try to recruit Ohtani to Boston.

The two-way star has never played in the postseason in his six-year career, and all reports continue to indicate that is his goal. And ultimately, it will be what he decides that could shift the fortunate of an MLB club.

Featured image via Kyle Ross/USA TODAY Sports Images