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MLB's offseason continues on Friday, with just a few days remaining until the annual Winter Meetings. Predictably, the rumor mill continues to crank. Let's get to Friday's best.

Latest on Shohei Ohtani

According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, Ohtani is expected to sign a contract that "will surge well beyond $500 million," thereby making it the richest deal in the sport's history. Much of the Ohtani recruitment process has been played close to the vest by both the teams and Ohtani's camp, yet the likelihood of Ohtani shattering the record -- currently belonging to longtime teammate Mike Trout -- should come as no surprise. CBS Sports reported that was likely as far back as July (though, to be fair, that was before he required elbow surgery that will leave him unavailable to pitch during the 2024 season).

Passan adds that the teams expected to still be in the Ohtani bidding include the Dodgers, Cubs, Blue Jays, and Angels. The Giants' pursuit of the two-way star is unclear, but some big names appear to have dropped out of the race. From Passan:

The Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, who were among the initial group of suitors, have turned their attention to other players, sources said.

The Dodgers have long been considered the favorites to sign Ohtani.

Yankees, Padres far apart on Soto talks

The Yankees and Padres have reportedly been discussing a trade that would send superstar outfielder Juan Soto to the Bronx, but it appears nothing is even close at this point. In fact, reports from The Athletic, New York Post and SNY all came early Friday evening indicating any deal is "far apart," there's an "enormous gap" and talks have "stalled." 

The ask from the Padres' side appears to include pitcher Michael King and possibly also pitcher Clarke Schmidt in addition to money and a big prospect haul. They've also attempted to attach center fielder Trent Grisham to Soto in the deal in order to entice the Yankees even further, as they do have a need in center. 

Soto is one of the best players in baseball, but he's also only one year away from free agency. If any team did pay the steep price that the Padres appear to be asking, surely said team would attempt to sign Soto to a contract extension before he hits free agency next offseason. 

Mets pursuing more rotation help

The Mets added one starter this week, inking former Yankees right-hander Luis Severino to a one-year pact. That doesn't mean they're done addressing their rotation. Andy Martino of SNY reports the Mets are "working to add several more starters" and "expect to sign more pitchers to one-year deals." Martino notes that Jordan Montgomery appears to be the likeliest of the high-end options, ranking him above both Blake Snell and Eduardo Rodriguez.

The Mets are considered to be the favorites to sign Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, according to reports that surfaced on Thursday.

Rangers not spending heavily this winter?

The defending champion Rangers might have their quietest offseason in years -- at least as it pertains to their activity at the top of the free-agent market, according to comments general manager Chris Young made to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.

"We expect to be active in free agency, but probably not spending at the level that we have spent in previous offseasons," Young said.

The Rangers will have most of their core returning next season. They'll also be able to insert young outfielder Wyatt Langford (the No. 4 prospect in the minors) at some point during the spring. Even so, the Rangers are slated to lose lefty Jordan Montgomery, catcher/DH Mitch Garver, and relievers Aroldis Chapman, Will Smith, and Chris Stratton to free agency.

Yankees add outfielder

The Yankees have claimed former Guardians outfielder Oscar Gonzalez off waivers, according to Jack Curry of YES Network. Gonzalez was one of the best stories of the 2022 season, posting a 125 OPS+ after being passed over in the Rule 5 Draft. His free-swinging ways caught up to him in 2023, however, limiting him to a 53 OPS+ and just two home runs in 180 trips to the plate. Gonzalez has options, so the Yankees could view him as little more than a depth piece. 

Orioles interested in high-leverage relievers

Count the Orioles among the teams shopping for late-inning pitching. Baltimore has shown some interest in Josh Hader, Jordan Hicks, Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman, according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post

Of those options, Hader would appear to be the most desirable.

The Orioles are expected to be without closer Félix Bautista for the entirety of the 2024 campaign after he underwent Tommy John surgery.