Shohei Ohtani, 29, is one of the top free agents in Major League Baseball (MLB) this year. Everyone seems to want him, but there are some teams that don’t want to sign him and some media outlets that are against him.
“There are some in the U.S. media who are saying, ‘We shouldn’t sign him,'” Japanese outlet Baseball Channel reported on Tuesday, citing a claim from U.S. outlet TWSN.레모나토토
Ohtani is getting special treatment this free agency. In MLB.com’s latest free agent rankings, Ohtani was the only player on the first tier. He batted .304 with 44 home runs, 95 RBI, 102 runs scored, 20 doubles, a .412 on-base percentage, a .654 slugging percentage, and a 1.066 OPS in 135 games this season, and went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 23 starts and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings. His Wins Above Replacement (WAR) ranked first in the majors according to both FanGraphs (9.0) and Baseball-Reference (10.0). This was despite an early season-ending tear of the medial collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow. For his efforts, he was named the unanimous American League MVP for the second time in 2021.
What’s especially positive is that his two-way game is becoming more complete with each passing year. At the plate, he’s consistently been a threat with the long ball, and this year he broke the triple digits and OPS 1 mark for the first time since his big league debut. On the mound, after struggling with injuries and poor performances in his first three years (2018-2020), he posted 15 wins and a 2.33 ERA last year. This year, injuries again prevented him from reaching the postseason, but he still managed to reach the 10-win plateau. A team that acquires Ohtani could get 15 wins and a 40-homer hitter at the same time. That’s got to be one of the best things about him.
His price tag is expected to skyrocket. According to MLB.com, “Ohtani is arguably the best free agent coming off elbow surgery. It’s unclear when he’ll return to the mound, but his batting performance alone will rival Aaron Judge’s (New York Yankees) nine-year, $360 million contract.” “Ohtani should be able to decide relatively quickly where he wants to play,” said NBC Sports Area. He’s the most sought-after free agent of this offseason and of all time,” and “Ohtani is expected to sign a contract worth at least $500 million (about $65.65 billion) even if he doesn’t throw a ball until 2025 after undergoing a second elbow ligament repair (Tommy John surgery).”
However, one team has already given up on Ohtani. The Seattle Mariners. “Signing Ohtani does not appear to be part of Seattle’s plans this offseason,” MLB.com reported on April 18, citing sources. The Mariners have been among the favorites to sign Ohtani. The team has a long history of Japanese players, including Japanese baseball heroes Ichiro Suzuki (50) and Kazuhiro Sasaki (55) and Hisashi Iwakuma (42), and Ohtani himself once said, “Seattle is a great city. I love it.”
Seattle has been linked to Ohtani before, with general manager Jerry Dipoto recently saying, “I’m sure there are 30 teams waiting for him to hit free agency,” but whether it’s because of his affinity for the team or financial issues, the Mariners eventually pulled out of the race.
Some outlets even suggested that the Cubs shouldn’t pursue Ohtani. TWSN wrote, “If Ohtani is healthy, there’s no doubt he can play, but the Cubs shouldn’t be interested in him. If they do sign him, fans should lower their expectations.” Of course, there’s value to be had. “There is no player in all of sports who can match Ohtani’s impact. His price tag could rise to $600 million (about $776.7 billion) if there is a bidding war.” However, his two elbow surgeries are a concern.
Additionally, it was argued that the Cubs should not acquire Ohtani to bolster their current weaknesses. Right now, the Cubs are looking for a first baseman, a third baseman, and a starting pitcher. The idea is that they could split the money for Ohtani and get Matt Chapman (Toronto), Blake Snell (San Diego), or Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix). “Acquiring Ohtani would make fans happy, but it would make it harder for the Cubs to build a talented team,” the outlet wrote.