Red Sox chairman gushes about Shohei Ohtani ahead of free agency


Here's one way for the Boston Red Sox to return to relevance: Sign the greatest baseball talent of this generation.

We're talking about Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2023 season. Ohtani essentially is two All-Stars in one body -- he mashed 34 home runs and 95 RBIs as a hitter last season while posting a 2.33 ERA with 219 strikeouts over 166 innings as a pitcher -- so it's widely assumed he'll fetch the richest contract in MLB history, perhaps in the neighborhood of $ 600 million.

Will the Red Sox be willing to break the bank for Ohtani? That remains to be seen, but what we do know is that team chairman Tom Werner is a fan.

Tomase: Red Sox' best bet in Ohtani sweepstakes? Win more games

"He's the greatest player in baseball in my lifetime," Werner told WEEI's "Gresh & Fauria" radio show Thursday of Ohtani. "Whatever compensation he receives is worth it because he's such a dynamic presence, obviously as a pitcher, as a hitter.

"Will he set the market? I'm sure he'll get more than any other player, but he deserves a lot of money, because he's a global star."

Werner, who spent decades in the television business before becoming an MLB owner, also pointed out Ohtani's massive popularity, which helped the 2023 World Baseball Classic draw record viewership as Ohtani led Team Japan to a championship.

"The ratings for the World Baseball Classic in Japan, as a country -- it was higher per capita than the Super Bowl in America," Werner noted.

Werner didn't explicitly say the Red Sox would pursue Ohtani in free agency next winter. But we'd imagine the Sox chairman is well aware that his team is generating considerably less buzz than it used to after just one playoff appearance in the last four seasons.

Signing Ohtani would change that reality in an instant, giving the Red Sox another marketable, A-list star alongside young third baseman Rafael Devers and potentially establishing them as 2024 contenders.

Then again, it's very hard to see Chaim Bloom handing out the most lucrative contract in baseball history. Bloom hasn't paid more than $ 160 million for an external free agent (Trevor Story) since taking over in December 2019 and has traded or declined to sign previous franchise faces Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts.

Will Werner, John Henry and Red Sox ownership nudge Bloom to at least consider signing Ohtani next offseason? Fans can dare to dream.

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