As the MLB Winter Meetings draw near the key free agents remain Shohei Ohtani, Cody Bellinger then all the rest of the gang

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Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, right, yells after hitting a foul ball into the New York Yankees' dugout, as Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez watche during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

NEW YORK (AP) — Shohei Ohtani was among seven players who turned down $20,325,000 qualifying offers from their former teams Tuesday and remained on the free agent market to pursue more lucrative contracts.

In addition to Ohtani saying no to the Los Angeles Angels, others who declined to accept were outfielder Cody Bellinger (Chicago Cubs); pitchers Josh Hader and Blake Snell (San Diego), Aaron Nola (Philadelphia) and Sonny Gray (Minnesota); and third baseman Matt Chapman (Toronto).

By making a qualifying offer — calculated as the average of the top 125 contracts by average annual value — a team would receive an additional selection in next July’s amateur draft if a player signs elsewhere before then. A team signing the player could lose one or two draft picks.

Qualifying offers began after the 2012 season, and only 10 of 131 offers have been accepted.

Ohtani heads a free agent class that also includes starting pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Jordan Montgomery, along with Nola, Snell, Gray and Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is not attached to draft-pick compensation.

The 29-year-old Ohtani is coming off one of the best two-way seasons in major league history, batting .304 with 44 homers while going 10-5 as a starting pitcher with a 3.14 ERA. However, he had his second Tommy John surgery in September and is not expected to pitch again until 2025.

Ahead of the deadline to protect players from the winter meeting draft, Washington first baseman Dominic Smith and right-hander Cory Abbott were designated for assignment to open roster spots along with Seattle first baseman Mike Ford; Cleveland right-handers Cal Quantrill and Michael Kelly; Tampa Bay right-handers Cooper Criswell and Calvin Faucher; and Kansas City catcher Logan Porter and right-hander Josh Staumont.

Agreeing to one-year contracts among arbitration-eligible players were Kansas City right-hander Taylor Clarke, Washington outfielder Victor Robles and Nationals righty reliever Tanner Rainey.

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