Shohei Ohtani was in the midst of the greatest baseball season ever. Whether or not the two-way Angels star returns this season, his 2023 campaign will be one of the most memorable in MLB history. But the news late Wednesday night that Ohtani had suffered another Champions League tear and would not play again this year rocked the sporting world.
It also raised a series of questions, especially about his future as a pitcher and in free agency.
FOX Sports’ MLB experts, including Ben Verlander, Deesha Thosar, Rowan Kavner and Jordan Shusterman, offer their initial thoughts on Ohtani’s injury and its potential wide-ranging repercussions.
How big is this hit for baseball?
Ben Verlander: This is heartbreaking. We are witnessing the greatest of all time, and this news is very painful. I feel for him. I feel like a baseball fan. I feel all involved.
Rowan Kavner: huge. A brutal reminder that even baseball gods are mortals. What probably the best player does with the bat is worth the price of admission alone, but his two-way ability is awe-inspiring. The prospect of losing that for a year or more, with no guarantee of what it might look like after that if a second Tommy John operation were necessary, is a total punch.
Ohtani made us reconsider the limits of the human body, and then showed us the breaking point. His relentless efforts to try to lift another underperforming Angels club will now prevent him from realizing his full value. And the best player the sport has ever seen will end his six years in Anaheim without playing a meaningful game in October. Everything stinks.
And to what extent does this injury affect his chances of continuing to play in both directions?
Verlander: I’m not too worried about his future as a two-way player. He went through this once, faced the same questions we shall now hear, and answered them all well on his return. He can come back from this, if he needs to have Champions League surgery again.
Jordan Shusterman: While I don’t doubt Ohtani’s intentions to remain a two-way player upon his return from a potential second Tommy John surgery, I do think it pays to wonder how he will bounce back and maintain his two-way workload at the age of 31 compared to when he first went. He’s fully turned both ways after surgery at the age of 26 in 2021 – not to mention he’s entering his mid-30s as part of a potential long-term commitment. But even in the short term, I’m impressed with how teams will assess him in 2024 as potentially a strong player, especially if he has surgery.
Ohtani was very good in 2019 as a DH after Tommy John surgery, and while I’m confident he’s improved greatly as a hitter since then overall, I’m wondering if we’ll need to lower his offensive cap a bit for 2024 if he’s already rehab From Tommy John surgery. It took Price Harper several months to fully regain strength this year, so I’ll be curious to see how quickly Ohtani’s outstanding production returns next summer, especially if he ends up signing a short-term deal that expects him to be a significant shareholder in 2024.
What can be expected of pitcher Ohtani if he needs a second Tommy John surgery?
Verlander: The return of two TJs is hardly unheard of. Walker Buehler is about to return from his second mission. Hyun-jin Ryu recently came back from his second and has looked great so far. There are many other beginners who have done this.
Kavner: It’s not a pleasant place to be, and often requires a longer lay-off, but has also been shown to be possible on multiple occasions. Justin Toba assists the Mariners. Caleb Ferguson is back in the Dodgers arena, and he’s throwing even harder now. We’re about to see how Walker Buehler handles it. The best example is Nathan Ivaldi, who returned from his second Tommy John surgery in 2016 to win a World Series with the Red Sox in 2018, earn an All-Star nod in 2021 and look like an early contender for the Cy Young Award this year in Texas. . But Iovaldi was 26 years old when he had his second surgery.
Ohtani, 29, closer in age to Chris Capuano, is another TJ success story twice back on the court seven more big-league seasons past the age of 30. But not everyone is the same. After Ohtani’s first TJ in 2018, it took him three years to find his MVP model. He had a 121 OPS+ as a full-time DH in 2019 and struggled both ways in the abbreviated 2020 season. There are simply no guarantees after one TJ, let alone two.
Did the Angels have to keep a six-man rotation?
Verlander: My frustration with angels is at an all time high. Months ago, the man was excluded from the Games due to “fatigue”. And we’re told over and over again, “It’s just tiring, it’s just tiring.” This was his body speaking, but the angels did not listen to him. Until last week, they kept throwing him every fifth start. At some point, someone has to step in and say, “Your future is more important.” I’m not sure the Organization of Angels felt that way.
Shusterman: Ohtani has been working on his own plan for years. This is not to blame Ohtani for where we are now; This is the nature of a player who pushes the physical limits of what any of us think is possible over multiple seasons. There was never a roadmap for a player like Ohtani which is why the organization ultimately trusted him to lead the way; Assuming there is a “right” way to avoid this happening is a gross overestimation of our ability to predict or prepare for elbow injuries in particular. Heck, Ohtani was throwing harder than he had all season in his August 3 game against Seattle. Pace has dropped on all his courts in his last two games.
The cramp in recent weeks has certainly been concerning, but the Angels and Ohtani wouldn’t have gone ahead with Wednesday’s start if they thought it was already hacked. I think this is just a very unfortunate injury and it can’t be completely shocking given the overall physical damage Ohtani’s body has taken over the past three seasons, albeit at his own discretion. I’m sad he got injured, but I admire and appreciate the degree to which he pushed himself to allow us to witness some of the greatest individual seasons of all time.
Ohtani remains the favorite to win the AL MVP award. But how sustainable is he as a designated hitter this year?
Verlander: If Ohtani doesn’t play another game this year, he’s the AL MVP. We might still see him, but that will depend largely on second opinions and whether he decides to get Tommy John. If he needs it, I think he should get it right away. Nothing more deserves this organization.
Disha Thosar: Ohtani is Ohtani, and the guy wants to hit. He learned of his Champions League rupture between two double-headers, asked him to bat in the second game, and went 1-for-5 with a quick double. Whether or not Ohtani will be able to hit depends largely on the severity of his tear, whether he can avoid surgery, and whether he postpones the operation until the off season.
When he needed a Tommy John in 2018, Ohtani found out in September and waited until October to have the procedure. With his free agency only a few months away, it remains in Ohtani’s best interest to continue hitting and trying for a home run title as long as it doesn’t affect his health. He currently leads MLB with 44 players. But any delay in the surgery could raise more questions about his future as a marksman.
Shohei Ohtani hit an MLB-leading 44 HR to give the Angels the lead against the Reds
How will this injury affect the 29-year-old’s free agency?
Verlander: His free agency turned out great. This season was to be an unprecedented negotiation. Speculations reached 600 million dollars, but no one truly He knew what kind of contract he would get. Now, we have one less idea. I still think we’ll see him get $500m, if it’s a long-term deal. But we may now see a one or two year deal as an alternative until it becomes clear how he recovers from this.
thusar: 600 million, 700, 800 dollars. Whatever the final number was, it was supposed to be astronomical. And that rupture in the Champions League, however severe, likely means Ohtani will come at a slight discount this winter. Maybe even at a rate that makes the Angels a drop point again. Depending on his recovery and how tedious and long the return trip is, it’s possible that Ohtani would prefer to go where he feels comfortable to rehabilitate.
For now, executives and evaluators must consider whether Ohtani’s tear in the Champions League jeopardizes his promotional future. Ohtani’s price would have been astronomical when it was set to enter the market as a two-way player. Now, it remains unknown how much he will offer – and how effective it will be – which will affect the contract he gets in free agency. Even the DH-only version of the Ohtani offers great value, is at the top of its class, and is sure to pay off. But the meteorites we most likely expected have taken a hit.
Kavner: It takes some serious glamor away from the most anticipated free agency in the sport. It will depend to some extent on the next course of action, but you have to consider that hundreds of millions are at stake. Maybe they are both better hitters And A pitcher was on the market in one package, and he was sure to sign the most lucrative deal in baseball history. And this is now in danger.
He’ll still get a huge contract in terms of what he can do with his bat, but if he can’t play again before the age of 30 – if that’s even possible – how confident will the team feel in giving him the $500 million he’ll do? you have received? We’re about to find out.
Could this situation increase the Angels’ chances of keeping Ohtani?
Verlander: I don’t think that increases the Angels’ chances of re-signing him. I think it hurt them. He gave them every ounce he had.
This story was authored by:
Ben Verlander (@beverlander)
Disha Thosar (@dishathosar)
Rowan Kavner (@ Rowan Cavner)
Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman (@CespedesBBQ)
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