Based on their transactions over the last few offseasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers made it evident they were positioning themselves for Shohei Ohtani's free agency after the 2023 campaign because of how much financial flexibility they've created by avoiding countless record-setting contracts.
Ohtani was going to be the crown jewel. Some analysts and executives projected he'd land a deal in the $600 million range, with most agreeing it'll cost at least $500 million to secure his signature.
But then everything changed a couple of weeks ago when Ohtani left one of his starts early. He underwent tests and it was revealed he suffered a partially-torn UCL, but the two-way star opted to play through it (solely as a DH, he likely won't pitch until 2025).
Ohtani's since suffered an oblique injury and he's refusing to relent. He insists on playing during the Angels' lost season that has once again disappointed the baseball world. Ohtani has nothing to play for but he's pressing ... for whatever reason.
His representation is exhibiting the same aggression, too. His agent says they're still weighing what procedure needs to be done to repair Ohtani's UCL, even though the alternative was previously explored when Ohtani last injured his UCL in 2018 before he ultimately succumbed Tommy John surgery three months later.
Shohei Ohtani medical updates still don't clarify free agency picture for Dodgers
The longer he delays any procedure, the more likely his 2024 debut is delayed. Some doctors have suggested it'd be most prudent for Ohtani to undergo Tommy John and completely sit out the 2024 season in order for him to continue his career as both an elite pitcher and hitter.
But Ohtani's agent also insisted, at the very least, the slugger will be in "somebody's lineup" as the designated hitter next season.
If there's any possibility Ohtani could compromise his future as a pitcher by opting to play offense in 2024, how can any team feel comfortable investing a half-billion dollars in him? A team is looking to pay for his ace-like starts and cleanup hitter at-bats. Removing one of those from the equation immediately slashes his value.
No matter how you look at it, Ohtani's situation could start to give more and more teams cold feet when it comes to offering him the largest contract in history. Even if a team wanted him to DH in 2024, the uncertainty surrounding the surgery/procedure he may need could delay his season, as he continues to log meaningless games for a downtrodden franchise. If a team interested in signing him wants him to sit out 2024 so he can return to peak two-way Ohtani post-surgery, it doesn't seem like he's willing to do that at this moment.
Though Ohtani still feels like a no-brainer signing for a team like the Dodgers, the factors circling his situation are making a financial commitment that was already a bit tough to stomach because of its sheer size now somewhat unnecessarily risky.