The Ohtani dilemma: Can Yankees afford the Risk?

Yankees' target Shohei Ohtani delivers a pitch during the All-Star Games, 2023.

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The New York Yankees had their sights set on Los Angeles Angels’ two-way superstar, Shohei Ohtani, well before the free agency period. As the trade deadline loomed, MLB insider Andy Martino of SNY revealed that the Yankees were among several teams actively inquiring about the talented Japanese player. However, Ohtani’s availability was uncertain, and interested clubs, including the Yankees, were informed by the Angels that a final decision would only be made after their series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.

Angels hold onto Ohtani

But then, a surprising twist occurred on Wednesday night when news broke that Angels owner, Arte Moreno, had made up his mind to hold onto Ohtani through the trade deadline. Moreno’s decision was driven by a strong desire to pursue a World Series championship and a hope of retaining the services of the 29-year-old phenom for the foreseeable future.

Earlier in April, there were hints that Ohtani might consider joining the Yankees among his options after the current season’s World Series. However, later reports indicated that Yankees’ owner Hal Steinbrenner was hesitant about adding yet another massive contract, given the existing commitments to reigning American League Most Valuable Player Aaron Judge, ace pitcher Gerrit Cole, and power-hitting slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Financial considerations, such as avoiding penalties for exceeding the luxury tax threshold, were influencing the team’s trade deadline activity.

Nonetheless, Ohtani’s extraordinary talent posed a unique proposition for the Yankees. A player of his caliber could potentially make a significant difference in the team’s fortunes, and the Yankees’ internal calculation had to be recalibrated with such an elite player in the equation.

Yankees’ playoff hopes and the impact of Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani delivers a pitch in the first inning.
USA Today

The Yankees, despite their struggles, were not entirely out of contention for a postseason berth. With a 54-48 record, they were situated at the bottom of the competitive AL East standings. Nevertheless, they remained within striking distance of a wild-card spot, trailing by just two-and-a-half games. The team’s optimism was buoyed by the imminent return of Aaron Judge to the lineup. Judge was recovering from a torn ligament in his right toe, an injury sustained on June 3. Before Judge’s latest stint on the injured list, the Yankees had been enjoying a respectable 35-25 record.

As the trade deadline approached, the Yankees faced the challenge of balancing their aspirations for a competitive team with financial prudence. Adding Ohtani to their roster would undoubtedly be a monumental move, but it would require careful consideration of long-term financial implications.

Ohtani in action for the Angels.
USA Today

In the end, Ohtani remained with the Angels, leaving the Yankees to continue their pursuit of a playoff spot with the roster they had. The decision would undoubtedly be met with mixed reactions from fans and analysts alike, but only time would reveal the true impact of this missed opportunity for the New York Yankees. The quest for a World Series championship would continue, and the Yankees’ front office would need to explore alternative strategies to bolster their chances of success in the competitive landscape of Major League Baseball.

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