Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Shohei Ohtani has been the talk of Major League Baseball all year for his unworldly talent as a two-way player and impending free agency at the end of the 2023 season.
Ohtani was in the midst of another unprecedented campaign before he tore the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow during a start against the Cincinnati Reds on August 23.
The 29-year-old underwent elbow surgery earlier this month to “reinforce the healthy ligament in place,” and Dr. Neal ElAttrache expressed confidence that he will be able to return to the mound as a pitcher in 2025.
Ohtani still plans to be available as a hitter for Opening Day of the 2024 season, but the UCL injury could potentially impact his market. Prior to the operation, there was speculation he would receive a record-breaking contract of $500 million or more.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were among the early favorites to sign Ohtani, but according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, they are no longer an obvious landing spot:
Though Ohtani’s surgeon, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, painted an overall optimistic picture after elbow surgery, the two-way star will only be a hitter, or in 2024 at least. The belief now is the Dodgers are “not quite as clean a fit” as before.
Shortly after Ohtani’s surgery, a report suggested the Dodgers are still interested in signing the generational superstar this offseason.
However, the team’s top priority will be bolstering their starting rotation due to the possibility that Clayton Kershaw retires or signs elsewhere, and Julio Urías’ career being thrown into doubt after getting arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence.
The Dodgers’ need for starting pitching won’t preclude them from signing Ohtani to a massive contract if they choose. The club has several contracts coming off the books this offseason, and they are projected to reset luxury tax penalties after staying beneath the threshold in 2023.
Even with the torn UCL in his right elbow, Ohtani remains a productive hitter at the plate and capable of making regular starts as the DH. He did so through September 3 until he suffered an oblique strain that ended his season.
Shohei Ohtani 2023 season
Despite being sidelined for most of September, Ohtani is still the clear favorite to win American League MVP honors this season.
Prior to his injuries, Ohtani hit .304/.412/.654 with an AL-best 44 home runs, 95 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 599 plate appearances (135 games). As a pitcher, he went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 1.06 WHIP and 11.4 strikeouts per nine in 132 innings (23 starts).
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