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After Ohtani signed with Dodgers, what's next for the Toronto Blue Jays

FILE - Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins arrives for his end-of-season media availability in Toronto on Saturday October 7, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn FILE - Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins arrives for his end-of-season media availability in Toronto on Saturday October 7, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
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Despite rampant speculations that the most sought-after free agent in Major League Baseball could be coming to Toronto, Shohei Ohtani decided to stay in Los Angeles and sign with the Dodgers.

On Saturday, the two-way superstar player agreed to a historic 10-year, US$700 million contract with the Dodgers after six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels.

The signing has left many Blue Jays fans wondering if Toronto, which had been rumoured to be one of the teams in the running to sign Ohtani, was ever close to getting him.

DID THE BLUE JAYS HAVE A SHOT?

"That's going to be the big question," TSN 1050's Matt Cauz said in an interview with CP24.

"We want to know now is why did they lose that. What is it about money? Seven hundred million for 10 years is a historic amount of money. So what's it about that?"

Cauz added that another factor could be that the Dodgers have won the World Series more recently than the Blue Jays, who last captured the championship in 1993.

He said the Dodgers having a more "elite team" with players who have won MVP awards, which would take pressure off Ohtani, could have played in his decision.

"But, the real question is how far did the Blue Jays and (general manager Ross) Atkins, (team president Mark) Shapiro and (team owner) Rogers -- how did they go to try to get Ohtani?"

On Friday, Ohtani watch kicked into high gear after several online reports that the Japanese player had chosen Toronto and was on a flight to the city. Thousands tracked the flight only to find out that Ohtani was never onboard.

It was revealed that Shark Tank and Dragons' Den star Robert Herjavec was on the flight. He later posted on Instagram an edited picture of him wearing a Blue Jays uniform and jokingly wrote in the caption, "I'd like to thank the @bluejays organization for signing me today!"

Adam Peddle, co-host of the Blue Jays Today podcast, was not surprised by the news, saying the Dodgers were always going to be the favourites.

"The fact that the Blue Jays were even in on this conversation is just a blessing," he said.

"But, after all this hype and after all the buildup and the anticipation whether Otani was actually going to come to the Toronto Blue Jays and shock the world – to have it all fall down and crash down the Earth, and we're back to reality, it does sting a bit."

While Ohtani is a significant loss, the team needs to refocus and acquire other available players to boost the lineup using the money they were prepared to offer, Peddle said.

"I think you still got to add that impact bat to your lineup. Maybe find some complementary pieces to fill the holes," he added.

"You got to help the boys that are currently on the team, like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. You got to help those bats, protect those bats in the lineup so that they can have success this year."

WHAT'S NEXT FOR TORONTO?

Cauz said there is a massive dropoff in terms of talent with the remaining crop of free agents. He suggested that Toronto could go after centre-fielder Cody Bellinger, who played for the Chicago Cubs last season.

Cauz noted that as the Blue Jays sought Ohtani, their division rival New York Yankees acquired outfielder Juan Soto from the San Diego Padres.

"Within the American League East, the Yankees just got better, and now the Blue Jays lose out on Shohei Ohtani," he said.

"Now it looks like there's not going to be a significant upgrade to an offence that needs a significant upgrade."

Cauz said Toronto was looking into filling their offensive gap this offseason as several of their players entered free agency, including Brandon Belt, Matt Chapman and Kevin Kiermaier.

"The Jays do have a good pitching staff. So that side is set but they were they were middle of the pack team, offensively," he said.

"It's trying to get Cody Bellinger, and it's hoping that a lot of these bats can bounce back after a poor 2023."

TSN baseball analyst Steve Phillips said the Blue Jays need to hit the ground running and make phone calls to players and teams they have put aside waiting for Ohtani's decision.

"They've got to go to Plan C when it comes to a bat in the lineup," Phillips said, noting that Plan B for Toronto was Soto.

"There's no licking your wounds right now. Twenty-eight other teams aren't waiting to see what you're gonna do. You got to get in there and get yourself going. And so I look for them to be really proactive right now, trying to fill their needs."

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