Ohtani turns out to be an impossible dream for the Yankees during the offseason
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The New York Yankees, amidst their ambitious offseason endeavors, have decided not to pursue the most coveted free agent in the market, Shohei Ohtani. While the Yankees are actively engaged in high-stakes pursuits for pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto and outfielder Cody Bellinger, and are prominently featured in trade speculations concerning Padres outfielder Juan Soto, Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the Bronx Bombers are “not believed to be in the mix” for the extraordinary two-way talent that is Ohtani, anticipated to secure a groundbreaking contract.
Yankees’ offseason saga
Passan suggests that the Yankees’ reluctance stems from their hesitation to add the “biggest contract in North American sports history” to an already substantial financial commitment. The quartet of Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, and Giancarlo Stanton has a combined owed amount exceeding $513 million over the next four seasons, making the addition of Ohtani’s potentially record-breaking contract a financial hurdle the Yankees seem hesitant to clear.
What’s going to happen?
An additional layer to this decision could be Ohtani’s historical preference. In the 2017-18 offseason, the Yankees reportedly extended the most lucrative offer to Ohtani when he was transitioning from NPB. However, Ohtani declined and opted to sign with the Los Angeles Angels. This past event might have contributed to the Yankees’ perception that Ohtani may not harbor a desire to play for them, regardless of the financial incentives. While Ohtani’s preferences may have evolved since then, the Yankees may still be operating under the assumption that they are not a prime candidate for his services.
Furthermore, the Yankees’ past pursuit of Ohtani and his subsequent decision to not join them prompted the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, who now occupies the designated hitter role. Given Ohtani’s impending inability to pitch until 2025 due to a torn UCL in his right elbow, his potential role as a full-time designated hitter clashes with Stanton’s current responsibilities. Even when Ohtani is ready to resume pitching, uncertainties linger about his ability to sustain a two-way playstyle due to potential physical tolls and the risk of further injuries, potentially confining him to a singular role.
For the Yankees, if they cannot optimize Ohtani’s extraordinary talent to its fullest potential, the match becomes less than ideal, especially considering the substantial financial commitment involved. This realization, coupled with Hal Steinbrenner’s reluctance to embrace the historic price tag, makes it highly improbable that Ohtani will don the Yankee pinstripes.
Fortunately, both parties have alternative paths to explore. The Yankees remain formidable suitors for Japanese pitcher Yamamoto, offering a costly but comparatively less astronomical investment than Ohtani. Additionally, trade rumors involving Juan Soto present another avenue for the Yankees, with Soto potentially offering a more seamless fit into their roster.
Meanwhile, Ohtani, recognized as the best player in the world, has the luxury of numerous suitors vying for his services. He can explore shorter-term deals with higher annual values, allowing him to reinforce his value as a hitter in 2024 before commanding a historic long-term deal once he is ready to pitch again. The unique combination of being the world’s top player and a free agent affords Ohtani considerable flexibility and advantages in navigating his free agency.
In conclusion, the Yankees’ pursuit of Ohtani has shifted into the realm of improbable dreams. Nevertheless, both the Yankees and Ohtani have alternative options that facilitate a smooth transition beyond this apparent impasse.