What Shohei Ohtani’s torn UCL championship means for a two-way star’s future, free agency

Shuhei Ohtani has torn his Champions League in his right elbow. In serving the Los Angeles Angels’ final moments in a rivalry – squandered, like most things about the franchise – baseball’s most inspiring star suffers an injury that could change the course of his unique career.

The game’s first double star, Ohtani is the deadlock for AL MVP honors, which will be the second time he’s won the award. Although the Angels purchased reinforcements at the trade deadline in an effort to help Ohtani reach the postseason for the first time—and perhaps convince him to stay—the effort fell flat. Realistically, it was doomed weeks ago, but when General Manager Pere Minassian announced on Wednesday that Ohtani would not play again in 2023 and Mike Trout would be back on the injured list after returning from a hand injury, the curtain fell.

This also likely marks the end of Ohtani’s time with the infuriatingly humble angels. For the vast majority of baseball fans, this would only lead to “good riddance.”

Given the success of free agency at the end of the season, Ohtani was expected to attract offers in unexplored territory – $500 million or even $600 million. That was before news of this injury, which usually requires Tommy John surgery, along with a 12- to 18-month recovery process for the Marksmen.

Ohtani will continue to hit the open market frothy. He will remain MLB’s hottest superstar this winter, the most interesting free agent, and the most interesting player in recent (not very recent) memory. However, the equation has undeniably changed – for now, in 2024 and in the next decade as Ohtani has the opportunity to continue carving his own way into the powerful annals of baseball history.

Let’s break down what the crushing news could mean for all those timelines.

August 23, 2023;  Anaheim, California, USA;  Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, 17, looks on from the rooftop circle during the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Angel Stadium.  Mandatory credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not clear if Shohei Ohtani will remain the star-catcher in the Angels’ batting order for the remainder of Los Angeles’ missing season. (Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports)

Rest of Shuhei Ohtani 2023

304 with 44 homers and 17 steals and leading MLB with 181 wRC+, all while recording a 3.14 ERA across 132 innings pitched, Ohtani would win the AL MVP. His 8.6 FanGraphs WAR is dwarfed by his closest MLS rival (Bobby Witt Jr. of the Kansas City Royals), and he was on his way to raising more questions about his place among the greats than his 2023 peers.

The turn counter and Ohtani’s contributions to the shot will now stop. But his striking advantage doesn’t have to happen. Even after he left game one of Wednesday’s doubleheaders and learned of his diagnosis, Ohtani was still in the lineup for the night game.

When he injured his elbow in 2018, Ohtani played the rest of the season as a hitter before he had Tommy John surgery in October. He can choose to do the same this season. He can chase 50 or 60 home runs, 10 home runs, or any other feat to further polish his amazing resume.

Or he can close it. Reports suggest he will get a second opinion before deciding whether to have a second Tommy John operation, but most Champions League injuries end up doing so. And if he is destined to perform the operation, his current circumstances may motivate him to do so as soon as possible.

Shohei Ohtani Historical Free Agency

about those conditions. Ohtani’s free agency will now run into complications. Not only will that stop a mob of eager suitors from offering hundreds of millions of dollars to hire MLB’s hottest presence, but it could change the shape of the final deal.

We must assume, pending a decision on the surgery, that Ohtani will not feature in 2024. Now, no one was aiming to sign him for a one-year contract, but the immediate impact would still be dulled, and the risks lurking in his move. (or any jar) long-term expectations will be inflated. Last winter’s two best rookies – Jacob DeGrom and Carlos Rodon – finished on the mound a total of 13 times for their new clubs. Ohtani’s silliness is such that he can claim to be the most valuable player in baseball without the benefit of his pitching skills, but the risks of throwing 99 miles per hour need to be factored into the calculus of his contract.

Younger than Aaron Judge, with similar levels of offensive production and added throwing dimension, even an injured Ohtani could command a $400 million commitment over eight to ten years.

However, for the past year, the upcoming madness has been seen as Ohtani’s second and final lottery. It was assumed that he would make a decision this winter that would guarantee him a record amount of money and qualify him for the rest of his career. That could be the result, but it is a short-term play that needs to be created last A crack in the market probably occurred to him – or at least his agent’s mind.

If Ohtani wants to give himself the chance to enter free agency while he’s healthy, he can sign a short-term deal. But more likely, the injury boosts the odds of a long-term deal that includes an opt-out (or opt-out) in two to three seasons, when in theory he’ll be back on the mound and regaining two-way dominance before exiting. his prime minister.

Shuhei Ohtani 2024 season

If Ohtani has surgery, he won’t play until 2025. Even with his speedy recovery, Bryce Harper-style this spring, and no postseason to take his time in October, he probably won’t be ready to play until May next year. season. This will be a factor for teams who want to hire him.

If Ohtani does not undergo surgery, the whole project will become even more mysterious. He could choose to rest, rehabilitate the injury and try to play in 2024, but the specter of potential surgery will haunt every game and could force him off at the least inopportune moment.

The sharp drop in pace preceded Ohtani’s departure from Wednesday’s game. But this was not the first case. He skipped his previous start due to what the Angels called arm fatigue. It is not clear when exactly this injury occurred, but nursing and caring for a constantly limited arm does not appear to be the best way forward.

Shohei Ohtani’s two-way experiment in 2025 and beyond

While a pitcher’s second Tommy John surgery can often require more rehabilitation time, it’s safe to expect Ohtani to be fully fit — barring any setbacks or unrelated injuries — for most, if not all, of the 2025 season, assuming He will undergo surgery.

To state the obvious, the fully functional two-way Ohtani – a player who has intrigued the sporting world over the past three seasons – is an MVP favorite in whatever league he plays in, an elite player on the field with great merit for his team. the team in the form of sponsorship, media attention, merchandise and ticket sales. Since the Angels opened Ohtani’s full tryout in 2021, allowing him to hit and pitch on the same day and eliminating pre-scheduled rest days, he has hit 124 home runs and thrown 428⅓ innings with a 2.84 ERA. It is worth re-reading for the effect.

Ohtani’s injury will more or less halt this unprecedented race. Whether it’s the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, New York Mets or any other team, the baseball world will be counting down, subconsciously reserving special breathing room for the next game in which Ohtani starts. On the hill and appears in the lineup.

The sight of Ohtani’s otherworldly action on the baseball field often masks the rigor and effort that lie at the core of his heroics. This cannot and will not go on forever. At some point, Ohtani will almost certainly return to doing one or the other, such as hitting or throwing. We hope, probably, that day will be many years away. But there’s little chance that we’ll look back and realize that he did, in fact, arrive on Wednesday.

For front desks, this is a new variable that is plugged into actuarial forms and tables. For the masses, it is the ticking of the clock that awakens you to the moment, an impulse to savor history that has already been witnessed.

And for Ohtani, this is a challenge — the kind of hurdle he has overcome again and again, to the surprise and delight of millions, and the kind he will have to overcome again.

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