Doctors' recommendation for Shohei Ohtani's 2024 season could scrap Dodgers' plans

Whichever team signs Shohei Ohtani might have to wait.

Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Angels - Game One
Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Angels - Game One / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

Prior to Wednesday night, the Dodgers' 2023-24 offseason plan seemed largely set in stone:

1. Offer Shohei Ohtani $550 Million
2. Wait a Few Days to See if Anyone Tops Offer to Shohei Ohtani
2A. If Yes, Offer Shohei Ohtani More Money
2B. If No, Sign Shohei Ohtani to Originally Offered Contract

Unfortunately, regardless of how valiant Ohtani attempts to be down the stretch in 2023, reality will rear its ugly head once his UCL tear is addressed this offseason.

It remains unclear whether his second opinion, likely followed by third and fourth opinions, will recommend reconstructive surgery, which he already rehabilitated from in 2018-19. That time around, Ohtani didn't pitch again until 2020, but returned to the DH role on May 7, 2019 following a procedure he'd undergone on Sept. 3, 2018. If he very quickly comes to the same conclusion this time around, he could technically be back in a lineup by mid-May 2024.

Unfortunately, a second Tommy John procedure could have a different effect entirely. Pitchers almost uniformly return to full strength after an initial surgery. The second time around? Names like Nathan Eovaldi and Walker Buehler (still rehabbing) stand out, but far more pitchers have been lost to history.

That's why doctors who spoke to Evan Drellich of The Athletic recommended that Ohtani should treat his body differently this time around and opt out of the 2024 season altogether.

Dodgers might be losing a year of Shohei Ohtani's prime

If the risk that his pitching prowess may never return in full wasn't enough to knock Ohtani's projected contract below $500 million, in the eyes of experts, then surely losing a year of his skills in totality might have that effect?

While physicians had differing opinions on the matter -- Dr. Chris Geary confidently stated Ohtani wouldn't pitch in 2024, but believes he could be back DHing before June -- Yankees head physician Chris Ahmad believes that, with escalating risk, the superstar should focus entirely on rehabbing his arm rather than muddling the picture with a different variety of training.

"If you said, ‘What is the best way to make him a pitcher?’ It would be to avoid disruption of his progression and throwing (in his rehab)."

Dr. Chris Ahmad, Yankees’ head physician

Even if we accept 2024 at face value (DH-only from, say, June through end of year), Ohtani's next contract will feature pitching incentives and plenty of non-guaranteed money to reach the furious heights he was slated for prior to this week.

But if the season gets taken off the board entirely at the behest of medical professionals who still see Ohtani as a long-term, two-way star, then the Dodgers have some serious thinking to do about how to reach the highest bid responsibly.