How Much Money Did Shohei Ohtani Just Cost Himself?

Set to become a free agent, Ohtani has torn a ligament in his pitching elbow

Shohei Ohtani looks on from the dugout.
Shohei Ohtani will be limited to designated hitter duties moving forward.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty

In a desperate bid to convince the best player in baseball to re-sign with Los Angeles once Shohei Ohtani’s contract is up after this season, the Angels went all-in at the trade deadline to get pieces to help get their two-way superstar into the playoffs for the first time in his MLB career. The controversial move did not work as the Angels have plummeted in the standings throughout August and are essentially out of the race for the final wild-card spot in the American League after losing four in a row.

Two of those defeats came yesterday over the course of a doubleheader against Cincinnati, but baseball games weren’t the only thing the Angels lost on Wednesday. The starter for the first game against the Reds, Ohtani was forced to depart with an injury after throwing 26 pitches. Testing revealed the injury that knocked Ohtani out of action was a torn ligament in his pitching elbow and there is a possibility the 29-year-old will need Tommy John surgery to repair it.

Ohtani, who hit his 44th homer yesterday and played in the nightcap even after the torn UCL was discovered, had Tommy John surgery back in 2018. Ohtani played 106 games as the Angels’ designated hitter in the 2019 season after having the surgery and only pitched two games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Shohei Ohtani Isn’t Getting Traded and That’s a Damn Shame
The Angels have pulled their two-way superstar off of the market

The Angels have already announced Ohtani will not pitch for the rest of the 2023 season, and if he does need to get Tommy John it’s certainly not a lock that he will pitch in 2024. It’s also up for debate how much Ohtani will be able to pitch in 2025 and how effective he will be when he does. All of that uncertainty could have a major impact on Ohtani’s wallet as he was widely believed to be in position to command the largest contract in MLB history this offseason.

Now, with his future as a pitcher somewhat up in the air, Ohtani, who is leading the league in home runs and has a 10-5 record on the mound, may not be able to sell himself as an ace as well as a slugger. That distinction could potentially cost him “hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to USA Today.

“The injury leaves teams suddenly looking drastically differently at Ohtani,” per the publication. “Can he possibly return to being one of the greatest pitchers in the game again, or even pitch? If he needs surgery, and can’t pitch, how long would it take for him to even play the outfield again? How long will he be limited to simply being a DH? So many questions, so few answers.” 

The irony of the situation is that Ohtani’s injury may end up helping the Angels because it could depress his market enough that he’ll opt to stay in LA, possibly on a short-term deal that will allow him to heal and build up his value again before making another run at free agency. In case you were wondering, Mike Trout is hurt again too.

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