When Shohei Ohtani first arrived stateside, his ultimate goal seemed to prove the doubters wrong by showing he could both pitch and hit at an MVP level. Mission accomplished.
But when Ohtani's elbow gave out for a second time in Aug. 2023, did that pivot point mark the end of his tenure as a two-way player? His initial mission had been accomplished tenfold but, of course, plenty of goals remained unfulfilled. Pitch in a World Series? Enter the Hall of Fame with dual degrees? And, of course, cash in on a free agent contract unlike any other, in terms of size, scope and incentives?
Ohtani's next contract this offseason, by all accounts, will approach the theorized pre-injury total. No team will "earn a bargain" by signing the face of baseball while he rehabilitates his balky arm and hits 50-60 home runs in the process; his contract will begin with a "five," and might begin with two of them. That said, the return process will be arduous, especially if he spends a year away from throwing proving that he really could be the very best hitter in the game. That's a title he could earn with or without hurling the baseball, and it's a prestigious one.
One American League executive voiced those concerns to MLB insider Ken Rosenthal this week, asking whether Ohtani's desire to pitch matches his remaining natural talent. It's certainly a bold claim for an outsider to stir up, but it should be a massive factor in the forthcoming negotiations.
Will Dodgers target Shohei Ohtani ever resume pitching at MLB level? One AL exec isn't so sure, says Ken Rosenthal.
The Dodgers, of course, would very much like Ohtani to pitch, but can no longer base their future upon it, regardless of his inclination. Once upon a time (again, early Aug. 2023), LA's "foolproof" offseason plan -- several years in the making -- included getting Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw a short-series-breaking running mate, as well as further filling in the middle of the Dodgers' very powerful order.
Now, if Ohtani's future on the mound (and motivation to create a future there) is murkier than expected, the idea of paying $500+ million for another middle of the order bat without a playoff pedigree is a bit more daunting. Hopefully, for the Dodgers' sake, this AL executive is just doing his due diligence to muddy the waters -- potentially because he's trying to take any shine he possibly can off the apple before submitting a competitive Ohtani bid himself.