In what will prove to be either a revelation or little more than an artifact of wishful thinking, the Los Angeles Dodgers have asked reliever Joe Kelly if he would be willing to give up his No. 17 jersey to prospective free-agent signing Shohei Ohtani, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. One general manager told Nightengale the Dodgers would have no reason to make such an ask of Kelly unless they "truly believed" Ohtani was signing with them.
The Dodgers remain the favorites to land Ohtani based on industry speculation, though the secretive nature of Ohtani's free-agent process casts doubt on the validity of that assertion. Jon Morosi of MLB Network suggested on Wednesday that Ohtani is expected to make his decision in the coming days.
Kelly, who only recently rejoined the Dodgers after the club declined an option on his services to begin the winter, talked last week about what he would request in exchange for surrendering the No. 17.
"I have 11 years of service time, I've been in this league twice as long as him," Kelly joked during an appearance on Rob Bradford's "Baseball Isn't Boring" podcast. "Unless he wants to buy me a nice car. I'll give up my number."
Here's the full clip, with Kelly also providing some information about the state of his home renovation project.
It's worth noting that Ohtani has not expressed or shown some longstanding devotion to the No. 17. He wore No. 11 during his days with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league. Additionally, he wore the No. 16 this spring in the World Baseball Classic.
"I'm not overly concerned about what number I'm putting on," Ohtani said in a press conference back in March. "But I've always had a number of 16 when playing for Team Japan."