Jeff Passan's 2023-24 MLB offseason preview and predictions

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

In the 12 days since Major League Baseball's free agent season commenced, not one player has signed with a new team. Nobody will mistake the MLB offseason for the NFL's or NBA's, when early frenzies turn free agency into events, but even for baseball, this year has been snail-paced.

Football and basketball are capped sports, and both wait weeks to commence free agency instead of starting it the day after a champion is crowned, so attempting to compare is like apples and kumquats. None of that lessens the disappointment for baseball fans ravenous to see their teams improve.

Instead, the hot stove has turned frigid on account of a number of factors: Teams are weighing addressing needs in the trade market. Players aren't eager to sign early, below-market deals. For now, the focus of front offices is on today's deadline to set 40-man rosters and Friday's to tender players a contract -- which are bound to lead to even more players hitting free agency. Some teams are punting on this relatively weak free agent class altogether, looking ahead to next offseason, when a class headlined by Juan Soto, Zack Wheeler, Pete Alonso and Max Fried hits the market.

And, of course, there is a half-billion-dollar question mark obscuring the proceedings.

No, Shohei Ohtani is not going to single-handedly cause every big-spending team with aspirations of signing him to wait instead of going after other top free agents. Executives are well capable of walking and chewing gum simultaneously. Still, the specter Ohtani casts is real.

It's no surprise, then, that he tops our overview of the winter ahead. Ohtani is primed to shatter the North American sports record for guaranteed money in a contract, currently held by his Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout, at $426.5 million. The last time a reigning MVP -- Ohtani is expected to run away with the American League award Thursday -- left his team in free agency was in 1992, when Barry Bonds absconded Pittsburgh for San Francisco.