The 2023 MLB season ended with the Texas Rangers winning their first World Series title. However, baseball never stops, even in the offseason, especially after free agency has started. As players with expired contracts can test the waters, Shohei Ohtani’s destination will be highly anticipated.
Ohtani became a free agent after his one-year, $30 million contract has been fulfilled. That deal is his third season under arbitration, which allowed the Los Angeles Angels to retain him. After six years with the squad, he will be a free agent for the first time.
Aside from his potential landing spot, baseball experts are projecting the Japanese sensation to sign a contract north of $500 million. However, the team that will get him won’t see his pitching prowess until 2025 due to a recent elbow surgery by renowned surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
Before the procedure, the Angels shut down Ohtani for the season, placing him on the 10-day injured list. This decision led to his Angel Stadium locker being cleared. But while he last played with the team on September 3rd, he was still in the dugout during their remaining games.
Therefore, the MLB franchise that will win the Shohei Ohtani Sweepstakes would have to wait two years before gaining an advantage from the arm that registered a 3.01 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP, and 608 strikeouts through five seasons.
It’s not the first time that Ohtani had to skip pitching for an entire season. He also had Tommy John surgery after his rookie MLB season (2018), keeping him off the mound until 2020. He pitched only two games in his pitching return, giving up three hits, seven earned runs, and eight walks.
But while his next team won’t see Ohtani the pitcher yet, they can still strategize around Ohtani the batter, which is equally impressive. He had 151 hits, an American League-leading 44 home runs, and 95 RBIs in 135 games. He also had career highs in batting average (.304), on-base percentage (.412), slugging percentage (.612), OPS (1.066), and wins above replacement (6).
Those numbers make him a prime candidate for the 2023 National League Most Valuable Player Award, a distinction he already received in 2021. Aside from being an MVP, Ohtani is a two-time All-MLB First Team and two-time All-MLB Second Team member.
The bidding war for Ohtani’s services will be intense, even if he won’t be a dual-threat player next year. Teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, and San Diego Padres have been identified to express interest in signing the Japanese star.
Playing for a winning organization might interest him, given he hasn’t experienced a winning record throughout his Angels tenure. That could be a significant consideration in deciding about his next squad.