Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on Tuesday revealed he met with Shohei Ohtani and said signing the superstar free agent was the club's "top priority" this offseason.
Roberts made the admission in response to a question during his media session at the Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings in Nashville.
The Dodgers have been seen as the front-runner to land Ohtani, who became a free agent after his sixth season with the Los Angeles Angels, but the National League club and other suitors have so far kept their pursuit of the two-way player under wraps.
Roberts said the meeting took place "a couple of days ago" at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
"We met with Shohei, we talked, and I think it went well. But at the end of the day, he's his own man and he's going to do what's best for himself," Roberts said.
With Ohtani's camp reportedly seeking to maintain secrecy surrounding his moves during free agency, Roberts' response appeared to catch Dodgers General Manager Brandon Gomes off guard.
Gomes told reporters he was "surprised" by his manager's candor and would not confirm that the talks with Ohtani had taken place.
Roberts said the meeting had not been focused on pitching the Dodgers to Ohtani and was more about getting familiar with the 29-year-old, who won his second American League MVP this year.
"I think he's got a pretty good idea of the Dodgers, what we're about, the city itself. And so for me, it was just a pleasure to get to spend some time with him," Roberts said.
According to U.S. media reports, Ohtani has also met with the San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays, but neither team has confirmed the meetings.