Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani . This news pretty well capped a disaster of a season for the Angels, but it also raises a bunch of questions. In fact, there are too many questions to answer here, so we'll narrow it down to the five biggest. We won't have the answers on some of these for a while, but they are questions worth following as this entire saga unfolds.
Remember, Ohtani hits free agency after the season and there is about to be a bidding extravaganza. How much does his injury affect his next contract? Greatly. It's tough to put a number on it, of course.
Here are the five biggest questions to be answered in the coming weeks, months and years with Ohtani following Wednesday's news.
1. Does he keep hitting this season?
Angels general manager Perry Minasian said Ohtani will take a few days before trying to swing a bat again but then he'll "do everything in his power to come back as soon as he can."
This isn't shocking. Players can still hit with a torn UCL. Remember how hot Bryce Harper was throughout the playoffs last season with a similar injury? Plus, we know how much Ohtani tries to play. Despite being the only full-time, two-way player in the majors since Babe Ruth, he's appeared in 126 of the Angels' 128 games to this point.
As such, I'm pretty sure the answer to this question is yes.
Still, it's something worth pondering for Ohtani over the next few days. If he does decide that he wants to have Tommy John surgery (we'll get to that in a moment) and wants to continue as a starting pitcher (we'll also get to that), it's entirely possible he realizes the Angels' season is over and it's in his best interests to get the surgery as soon as possible. That would, obviously, end his season as a hitter. So there's a bit of a domino effect here. It all starts with ...
2. Will he have Tommy John surgery?
Pitchers are not required to have Tommy John surgery with a torn UCL. It just seems to be what, eventually, works best. Masahiro Tanaka had a partially-torn UCL in 2014 and rehabbed instead of having surgery. He ended up pitching in the majors another six-plus seasons after that without having any long injured list stints.
He is an outlier, though. I remember Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney -- both on the Angels at the same time -- getting platelet-rich plasma injections and hoping to avoid Tommy John surgery. They both eventually had to have the surgery. There are seemingly countless examples of pitchers trying to avoid the surgery and then eventually just having it.
Most pitchers these days bounce back from the procedure and return close to form. Some don't, though. The list of pitchers having a second Tommy John surgery and coming back to have longer careers isn't too long and it's a mixed bag ().
There's something to factor in here with Ohtani that we haven't done with others pitchers. It's that he's an amazing hitter, too. And there's also the factor that maybe he just doesn't want to have the surgery and do the rehab required for the next 12-14 months. He's already done it once. It isn't pleasant.
My hunch is he ends up having the surgery and attempting to come back as a starting pitcher for the 2025 season, but only he knows the answer (and he might not even know it yet, as he's still gathering information and thinking things over).
3. Will he keep pitching long-term?
There's always the possibility that Ohtani decides to just become an offensive player or something like a right fielder.
Would that really be so bad? Do you think this player would get any attention in 2023: An outfielder/designated hitter slashing .304/.405/.664 (183 OPS+) with 22 doubles, seven triples, 44 homers, 91 RBI, 97 runs and 17 stolen bases. He leads the majors in triples, home runs, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and total bases. He leads the AL in runs and walks.
That player alone would be in the MVP conversation and that's Ohtani if we ignore pitching. He's actually tied with Marcus Semien in AL position-player WAR on Baseball-Reference and leads the AL in Fangraphs' version.
I have no doubt that if Ohtani ditched pitching and started playing right field that he'd become one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, too. That would give him even more value than he's already providing on the bases and in the box.
Still, the most valuable Ohtani can possibly be is the version we've seen since the start of the 2021 season, a near-three-year run of being an All-Star caliber starting pitcher and MVP-caliber offensive player.
4. How much money did this cost him?
This is an answer we'll never actually know.
What we know is that Ohtani was about to hit free agency at age 29 as an ace. Heading to his age-29 season, Gerrit Cole got a nine-year, $324 million deal from the Yankees. Ohtani is also one of the biggest power bats in baseball. Heading to his age-31 season, Aaron Judge got nine years and $360 million from the Yankees.
We can't combine those figures, but Ohtani was absolutely going to shatter both of those numbers. Judge's deal was the biggest in free agency history. Mike Trout's extension with the Angels was 12 years and roughly $426 million.
The easiest benchmark is 10 years and $500 million. He might've gone over it. The Angels were surely going to do everything they could to retain him while the Dodgers were likely going to be furious bidders and surely the Yankees and others would try. Those three teams alone would shoot the bidding up to the moon. I've said on a few video spots that I was expecting over $600 million.
The injury here greatly complicates matters. I do not, however, want to overreact here. I just pointed out Judge's $360 million deal and he was a year older in hitting free agency. If you look at just Ohtani's offensive numbers, he deserves similar treatment to Judge in the market.
There's the mitigating factor on if Ohtani gets the surgery and how much it impacts his 2024 season, but there's also the upside that he returns to the mound in some fashion in the near future and I fully expect that to happen.
Again, we'll never know the answer, but my guess is this injury cost him some money, just not as much as a lot of people might think.
5. Where will he sign?
I have to believe that he's done with the Angels. He's made it clear he's tired of not being on a playoff team and the Angels keep failing. This year was their chance to prove it and he really didn't get much help. At times it felt like he was single-handedly keeping them in the race. They aren't in the race anymore (10.5 games back in the wild-card race after getting swept in a doubleheader by the Reds on Wednesday).
The Dodgers are the easy and obvious favorite.
Every other megamarket team should be involved, which means the Yankees, Mets and Cubs (and we should point out here the White Sox should count, but they've never signed a free agent even to a $100 million deal), but are the Mets planning on contending soon? The Rangers have the financial wherewithal and are a contender. Ditto for the Giants. Would the Mariners and/or Padres be serious bidders? There are reasons to believe both yes and no for each. Who else? The Blue Jays and Red Sox could afford him and are contenders. Same for the Phillies.
If I had to guess right now, I'd say there's a 0% chance a team I didn't list signs Ohtani. One of these 11 teams will sign him and it won't be the Angels. I'll stick with the Dodgers, but it is a burning question heading toward the offseason.