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Ohtani’s response to a question about the Cubs’ chances of signing him prior to the 2018 season: Ohtani smiled. “All those reports,” he said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, “probably most of them are lies. People make stuff up. So I don’t think you should believe everything you read.”


July 10th, 2023

SEATTLE — A reporter at Monday’s All-Star Media Day — familiar with old rumblings about how close Shohei Ohtani might have come to signing with the Cubs when he left Nippon Professional Baseball for MLB prior to the 2018 season — wanted to know how the pending free-agent superstar feels about the North Siders now.

“How close was it with them? How much did you like them?” the reporter asked. “And is there any appeal for you to Chicago moving forward?”

“All those reports,” he said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, “probably most of them are lies. People make stuff up. So I don’t think you should believe everything you read.”

It was a humorous moment in Ohtani’s well-attended roughly 30-minute scrum on the outfield warning track at T-Mobile Park. It also was a preview — and, from Ohtani — a warning of what’s to come.

Ohtani’s free agency is setting up to be the most lucrative in MLB history and arguably the most fascinating in any sport’s history. He is, after all, in his own category of athletic capability, and the marketability that comes with his profound profile in his native Japan is also its own category. There has never been anybody like Ohtani, and there might never again be anyone like him. Whether or not he leaves the Angels, he’ll be paid handsomely, to put it lightly.

With that uniqueness and profile, the newly 29-year-old Ohtani will generate incessant — and, yes, often inaccurate — speculation. It will follow him not just this offseason but also, of course, in these waning weeks before the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline, as his Angels’ strong start has recently been offset by losses on the scoreboard and in the lineup. The fractured left hamate bone that is keeping Mike Trout out of this All-Star Game and out of the Halos’ lineup for the foreseeable future only furthers speculation of a possible swap.

Predictably, Ohtani fielded a lot of questions about his future Monday. Just as predictably, he gave meaningful answers to virtually none of them, with the notable exception of that Cubs query.

Regarding the Trade Deadline, Ohtani said, “I have no control over it, so I try not to think about it. I just focus on the game that day.”

Regarding free agency, Ohtani said, “I’m focused on this season right now. I just want to do my best to get as many wins as possible.”

Ohtani did allow that his feelings about the importance of playing for a World Series-caliber team “get stronger every year.”

“It sucks to lose,” Ohtani said.

That comment will only fuel more discussion about whether an Angels team in possession of the longest active postseason drought in the Majors (tied with the Tigers) can keep Ohtani. And Ohtani may have thrown a bone to fans of the local nine when he said that he’s spent about four months across two offseasons living in Seattle and that it’s a “nice” and “clean” city.

Other than that, though, Ohtani remains as hard to read as he is to take deep or strike out. He sat here Monday not just on the precipice of his third All-Star Game but also on the precipice of a fascinating trade and free-agent period.

You’re going to read about him an awful lot.

Just don’t believe all of it.

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