Shohei Ohtani, this year's top free agent, is in better days a two-way superstar who's a frontline starting pitcher on the mound and one of the top power hitters in baseball at the plate. Unfortunately, Ohtani won't pitch in 2024 as he recovers from a procedure to address a torn UCL in his throwing elbow. That we'll be getting just half of the Ohtani Experience in the upcoming season helps explain the following report from ESPN's Alden Gonzalez, who writes that "people familiar with Ohtani's thinking believe he might be open to a short-term deal with an exceedingly high average annual value."

The current record for highest annual salary is shared by Justin Verlander of the Astros and Max Scherzer of the Mets – former Mets, both – at $43.33 million. If Ohtani is indeed willing to sign a one-year pact, then his eventual deal would surely dwarf that shared record. 

The thinking from the Ohtani camp likely stems from the fact that he won't be pitching in the upcoming season, and signing a deal that would allow him to re-enter the free-agent market for the 2024-25 offseason would put him in position to land a deal that better reflects his full worth as a player. He'd be going into his age-30 season next winter. Such a possibility adds an intriguing layer to the already compelling Ohtani chase, and, if accurate, it may even lure in more suitors who were perhaps unwilling to commit, say, $500 million or more. That's likely what the market would demand when it comes to a long-term contract. 

Whatever the case – meaning, mostly, whether Ohtani is open to a one-year bridge deal or whether he's ready to commit for the next decade-plus – this may not be a drawn-out tale. Speaking of which, ESPN's Jeff Passan writes

"The expectation among teams involved is that Ohtani could move relatively quickly -- perhaps even before the Dec. 4-7 winter meetings, according to sources."

Given that Ohtani is a leading wishlist item for the teams who figure to be the most aggressive spenders this winter, some early December clarity on that front could unlock a lot of other free-agent names. 

On the field and off of it, Ohtani rules all.