Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani is often compared to the legendary Babe Ruth, who also began his Major League Baseball career as a pitcher before his home run prowess changed the game forever.
ESPN's Tim Kurkijan is one of baseball's premier analysts and authors, awarded the Career Excellence Award at the baseball Hall of Fame last year. He's watched Ohtani closely as the left-handed hitter has averaged 40 home runs and 101 runs batted in per season. At the same time, he's also averaged 190 innings pitched with 240 strikeouts as a right-handed pitcher.
"Babe Ruth is the greatest player we've ever seen, but Shohei Ohtani has to be the most remarkable player we've ever seen," Kurkijan told Scripps News sports correspondent Paul Crane. "Now he's going to free agency [and] by definition, he's the biggest free agent in the history of baseball. I'm not even sure there's a close second."
However, Ohtani tore a ligament in his right elbow in August of this year and heads into free agency having recently had Tommy John surgery to repair his UCL.
"There's no doubt that he lost a lot of money with the Tommy John surgery because there's just no way he's going to be able to pitch until 2025 and there's no guarantee he's going to pitch then," Kurkijan said. "Also, remember, this is his second Tommy John. So teams are going to have to factor that in."
Despite the injury, Ohtani is virtually assured of landing the biggest contract baseball has ever seen. But Kurkijan says it will be important for Ohtani to play for a team that will allow him to manage his hitting and pitching as he sees fit, while also getting the one thing no amount of money can buy: a shot at the World Series.
"I think he's more interested in his comfort level on wherever he goes," Kurkijan added. "He also wants to find — and this is more important than anything now — he needs to find a place to win because he's never played on a winning team or a playoff team with the Angels."
As for where Ohtani will land this offseason, Kurkijan said there's a chance he ends up staying in Los Angeles.
"Look, we're all guessing here, Paul, but the Dodgers seem to make the most sense," he said. "You know, he would hit in the order behind Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. Who wouldn't want to do that? But, let's just say the Cubs come along and said 'You could come to Chicago and be a star here.' And I think he really likes playing at Wrigley Field. Don't underestimate that."
Other potential suitors for Ohtani include the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, and Seattle Mariners.
"Seattle makes an enormous amount of sense," Kurkijan said. "That place is jumpin' for baseball, which is what Ohtani wants."
Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how many teams make serious offers, for how many years, and — of course — how much money.
But for now, only two things seem certain: Ohtani will win his second Most Valuable Player award and will undoubtedly become incredibly wealthy very soon. What remains uncertain is if Ohtani will ever be able to win a championship ring.
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