Shohei Ohtani and the Blue Jays are a perfect match and Rogers should pony up the cash to make it happen
Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
24 days ago
To Shohei Ohtani or not, that is the question.
With the Texas Rangers winning the World Series on Wednesday, the MLB’s unpredictable and languishing offseason officially began. The free agent class this offseason is intriguing on the pitching side with free agents like Aaron Nola and Blake Snell but quite underwhelming on the hitters’ market. However, there is one player who is about to completely transform the MLB’s free-agent market like no one ever has. What makes this even more fascinating is that this player can change the course of a franchise for years to come with his unbelievable talent in both hitting and pitching. His name is Shohei Ohtani.
As noted by ESPN’s staff writer Alden Gonzalez in an article about the 10 best suitors for Ohtani, the two-way star slashed .277/.379/.585 while recording 124 homers, 22 triples and 57 stolen bases from 2021 to 2023 as a hitter. He also recorded a stellar pitching performance for those two years with 34 wins, a 2.84 ERA in 74 pitching starts and struck out 542 batters over 428⅓ innings. Let’s also not forget that Ohtani also won the 2021 AL MVP award unanimously, given his transcendent talent that turned the baseball world upside down.
One interesting factor that could potentially impact Ohtani’s free agency is his tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow which required him to go through a Tommy John surgery. While Ohtani can return as a hitter by the beginning of the 2024 season, he will only be able to resume his two-way role by the 2025 season. This means that teams would evaluate Ohtani’s value as a pure hitter for the 2024 season while factoring in his potential as a pitcher from 2025 onward. Even so, Shohei Ohtani’s market will be extremely competitive this winter, with many suitors generously offering mindblowing contracts that could easily command $400 million to $500 million.
Signing Ohtani to a lucrative contract is not an ordinary business but this is the perfect time for potential contenders to shoot their shot, even if it may be a stretch. A player like Ohtani is a generational talent that only comes once in a century and justifies any kind of sweepstakes. The Blue Jays are no exception to this offseason’s blockbuster narrative as the team comes out of its disappointing 2023 season. So, should the Jays make a huge deal this offseason to bring him north of the border? Let’s think about what this would mean for the Jays’ offseason.
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The case for passing on Shohei Ohtani…
It’s no secret that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have exhibited a conservative spending pattern throughout their tenure so far. That said, they did spend more during the trade deadline of 2023 by bringing in reliever Jordan Hicks from the St. Louis Cardinals and showed that they were willing to take some risks. Generally speaking, the Shapiro-Atkins tandem is risk-averse when it comes to striking the big deals. Let’s also keep in mind that the Jays haven’t inked any long-term extensions with franchise players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette yet.
If that wasn’t enough, Ohtani’s value will only come from hitting for next season, which means that he will mostly take up the designated hitter (DH) spot. His eligibility as a DH will create a logjam for the Jays, with the team having to give off days for right fielder George Springer, catcher Alejandro Kirk and catcher Danny Jansen. The positional fit for Ohtani isn’t quite there for the Jays compared to other contenders and this could discourage the front office from making an offer to Ohtani. There is a possibility of trading one of these three players to make room for Ohtani, but that move will be highly unlikely with Springer’s gradual decline as a hitter and the generally weak catching depth in the Jays’ organization.
The case for making an offer to Shohei Ohtani
A unicorn like Ohtani doesn’t need to fit into anyone’s roster; rather, teams need to work their roster to accommodate his talent. Ohtani may only be able to produce as a hitter for a year but his hitting has been beyond elite for over two years now and the fact that he can pitch again in 2025, is a future worth betting for. The Blue Jays need something to drastically transform their complexion and Ohtani is the perfect candidate to lead that change. He may not have a positional fit with the Jays at all, but he can still help lead this team to contention in 2024 with his incredible plate discipline and power. Remember how the Los Angeles Dodgers signed first baseman Freddie Freeman even if they had Max Muncy? Exactly – Freeman was still a talent worth signing (as long as you don’t count his oddly listless postseason performance with the team).
Another reason why the Jays could afford to pursue Ohtani this off-season is because of the free agents coming off their books. Third baseman Matt Chapman, centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier, first baseman Brandon Belt, starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu, and second utility man Whit Merrifield could all sign with different teams before next spring, and there are a handful of prospects on Triple-A Buffalo ready to push to be their replacements. That gives the Jays’ front office more room to take an exhilarating gamble when it comes to Ohtani.
While Ohtani can’t pitch for the 2024 season, the Blue Jays already have a pretty much set starting rotation for 2024, so they can afford to wait patiently before getting him back on the mound in the future. More importantly, Ohtani is a very valuable hitter already, with more than 160 extra-base hits in a span of 2021 to 2023, and it doesn’t hurt that he is an efficient baserunner and stealer, either. The Blue Jays need his bat most of all and he could push the team over the top.
There is no doubt that Ohtani will boost any MLB team’s prospects and there’s really no argument against signing him. Every team should open up their chequebooks for this level of talent, rightfully so. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rewrite the course of baseball history and the last thing we need is fiscal conservatism.
Signing Ohtani is a risk worth taking – end of discussion.
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