Passan's latest on Ohtani, Yamamoto, Soto trade and more

Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Shohei Ohtani wasn't in attendance this week, and yet it seemed like he was all anyone could talk about at the 2023 winter meetings anyway.

The stealthiness with which Ohtani's free agency has unfolded as he prepares to sign a contract worth upward of $600 million has spawned all manner of questions. Among the most popular topics of conversation at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, where the meetings were held: When is Ohtani signing, where will he end up, what is he going to get paid and, perhaps most oft-repeated, why won't he tell us the name of his dog?

The sheer number of unanswered questions -- is his dog, like, named after one of the teams he's deciding among? -- cast an unmistakable shadow and continued to illustrate his invisible grip over the industry. For three days, Ohtani's looming free agency stopped up almost any free agent movement, leaving the meetings on the verge of being a complete dud.

Before the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres swooped in to save the day with the fascinating Juan Soto blockbuster, the previous newsiest moment had been Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts committing the grievous sin of publicly acknowledging that the most moneyed team in baseball had met with Ohtani, who's bound to be the most moneyed athlete in North American professional sports history. The obviousness of it didn't take away from it prompting questions about whether it might hurt Los Angeles' chances with Ohtani, a narrative that has taken on increasing resonance with Toronto's emergence as a real player.