Tokyo baseball fans in Tinseltown woke up to terrible news on Thursday: Shohei Ohtani has again torn the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his throwing elbow and may require a second operation by Tommy John.
Not only will that keep him from pitching again for the Los Angeles Angels in 2023, but it will have a huge impact on the market value of baseball’s two-way sensation, who was expected to sign a record free agency deal this winter. MLB contemporaries such as Kansas City’s Salvador Perez and Toronto’s Jordan Romano had previously estimated Ohtani’s worth at $600 million, putting him in the exclusive neighborhood of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Of course, even at half strength, Ohtani remains baseball’s most explosive offensive force. His 44 home runs lead the majors, while his OPS (on-base percentage + hitting percentage) is a career-best and MLB-best 1.069. And as the Angels’ season continues to unravel in Anaheim, Ohtani remains the favorite to win the American League MVP award.
But the reality regarding Japan’s biggest export is undeniably grim: Ohtani, 29, could now be forced to accept a smaller, short-term contract as a free agent and serve exclusively as a designated hitter. as he continues to rehabilitate his beleaguered elbow. in 2024.
Unfortunately, the possibility of another surgery could put his pitching career entirely in jeopardy. And if so, like Babe Ruth before him, Ohtani could drop the mound altogether and focus entirely on striking.
Ohtani remains baseball’s most feared hitter, but his future on the mound is in jeopardy
Shohei Ohtani’s impending free agency has many Angels fans worried
For now, Ohtani isn’t rushing into a second Tommy John operation – a procedure that involves replacing a ligament in the elbow with a tendon from another part of the patient’s body.
Named after the former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who successfully recovered from the breakthrough procedure in the mid-1970s, Tommy John’s surgery has been a blessing for pitchers, including Ohtani.
It was only four years ago that Ohtani underwent surgery which left him out of action for 2019 and all but two games in 2020.
Nonetheless, Ohtani returned to the mound in 2021 and had his best season as a pitcher in 2022 posting a career-low 2.33 ERA and averaging five strikeouts for every walk. .
And he’s been nearly as brilliant in 2023, ranking among the league leaders in most pitching categories while blacking baseball’s most feared hitter.
Named after the former Dodgers pitcher (pictured) who successfully recovered from the breakthrough procedure in the mid-1970s, Tommy John’s surgery has been a blessing for pitchers
There was some optimism on Wednesday, thanks to Angels general manager Perry Minasian.
“If I had to bet on anyone who would bounce back, it would be him,” he said. “I believe he will come back and he can do both again at a very high level.”
And Ohtani has other reasons to believe he can return to the mound.
Texas Rangers pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, Chicago White Sox reliever Mike Clevinger, Dodgers Daniel Hudson and Cubs Jameson Taillon all returned from second surgery at Tommy John. Meanwhile, Walker Buehler is set to do the same for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But others weren’t so lucky. Jacob deGrom of Texas is currently facing this predicament as he recovers from a torn UCL. Previously, the career of Cincinnati Reds ace and 1990 World Series MVP Jose Rijo had effectively ended with multiple Tommy John surgeries.
“(After just one Tommy John procedure) there’s a good chance you’ll come back,” surgeon Robert Keller told the Washington Post in 2015. “You’re probably not as good as before, but you’re close to where you should be.
“When you have a second one, you might not come back, and if you do, you won’t throw as much and you won’t throw as long.”
White Sox reliever Mike Clevinger successfully returned from second Tommy John surgery
Texas Rangers pitcher Nathan Eovaldi is another pitcher who returned from two torn UCLs
For the Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, Mets and any other potential Ohtani suitors, it’s a major consideration before extending an offer this winter.
Fox Sports MLB insider Ben Verlander, former minor league pitcher and brother of reigning American League Cy Young, Justin, thinks Ohtani will still command nine-figure offers this winter.
“His free agency is getting really interesting now,” Verlander said. Fox Sports. “This offseason was supposed to be an unprecedented negotiation. Nobody really knew what kind of contract he would get.
“Now we have even less of an idea. I still think we’ll see him get $500 million, if it’s a long-term deal. But we might now view a one- or two-year deal as a placeholder until it’s clear how he will recover.