On Friday, baseball fans everywhere thought that Shohei Ohtani was headed to Toronto for a meeting, and possibly signing, with the Blue Jays — and then he apparently wasn’t.
Rumors swirled all day long that hinted the two-way superstar free agent was en route to Canada.
It all started when it was reported by MLB Network that Ohtani’s decision on his next team was “imminent” and could be known on Friday.
A post on X, formerly Twitter, went viral that said Blue Jays’ Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi made reservations for 50 people at a Toronto sushi spot, but the big bolt came when Reddit users found there was a plane from Anaheim, California, where Ohtani played for the last six seasons, on its way to Toronto.
Thousands of people wound up searching for the flight online, patiently waiting for what they thought was Ohtani’s arrival in the 4 p.m. hour.
MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi even said sources told him that Ohtani was en route to Toronto, and then another rumor swirled that the Blue Jays had called a 6 p.m. press conference.
However, everything died down relatively quickly after another report from USA Today said Ohtani “is NOT in Toronto,… is NOT on a flight to Toronto,” and is “at home in southern California.” The New York Post reported the same.
CBC had a photographer at Toronto’s Pearson Airport to try to get shots of Ohtani coming off the plane, but it reported that the viral flight was actually for Canadian businessman Robert Herjavec and his family.
Ohtani is certainly the most highly-touted free agent in MLB and is likely going to break the record for the largest contract not only in league history but North American sports.
At the plate, he led the majors in 2023 with a .654 slugging percentage and 1.066 OPS; his .412 on-base percentage was second in the league; his 44 homers were fourth; and his .304 average was ninth.
Ohtani was also brilliant on the mound, going 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings pitched. Among pitchers who threw 130.0 innings, his ERA was the ninth-lowest in MLB and his K/9 was sixth; among AL pitchers with that number of innings, he ranked fifth and third, respectively.
Ohtani’s 10.0 WAR led the majors by far; Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts’ 8.3 was second.
While the internet was set on fire with those Ohtani rumors on Friday, it remains to be seen where he will play for the foreseeable future.