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Ohtani opts for surgery. What’s next for baseball wünderkind?

Two-way baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani underwent a procedure on his throwing elbow last Tuesday, officially ending his season. The surgery was to treat a UCL tear that had been precluding the 29-year-old from pitching since Aug. 23. It’s expected that Ohtani will be able to return as a hitter as soon as Opening Day next season, however he likely will not pitch until 2025. Ohtani was hitting for an outlandish 1.066 OPS and leading the American League with 44 home runs. He also held a 3.14 ERA in 132 IP this season. 

The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to Ohtani. His unique mastery of all phases of baseball have led many to declare that he’s already the most prolific player in the history of the sport, despite never having made a Major League Baseball playoff appearance. Ohtani is in the final year of his contract, and it’s anticipated that the bidding war for his services this coming offseason will be the greatest ever seen in MLB.

Virtually any baseball fan who lives outside of Anaheim is hoping to see Ohtani leave the Los Angeles Angels in the offseason. In his time with the Angels, Ohtani has blown the baseball world away, won the Rookie of the Year award, won Most Valuable Player, and has been rewarded with no playoff appearances to date. 

The Angels are infamous amongst audiences for their tendency to waste prime talent. Mike Trout has been with the club since 2011, and has only played in three postseason games despite being considered the most complete player in baseball during 10 or so years of that stretch. Despite having these two phenoms on the team at the same time, and despite their bloated payroll of $212 million ranking sixth in the league, the halos will miss the playoffs for the 10th consecutive year. 

It’s abhorrent that the Angels have managed to fritter away such generational talent so consistently, and for the sake of the sport, it’s imperative that Ohtani signs somewhere else this offseason. The questions remain: where will he sign, for how much and for how long?

Ohtani has not publicly expressed a strong desire to leave the Angels, but his frustration in the face of his team’s struggles has been palpable. Whichever team signs Ohtani will need to fork over a hefty chunk of change. It’s projected that Ohtani’s contract will eclipse $500 million over 10 or more years. It remains to be seen whether his injury history will give teams a discount. This season’s elbow surgery is the second of Ohtani’s career, which could give teams a reason to fear a complete collapse on the mound, or another injury that could end his pitching career for good. 

It’s up in the air where Ohtani will land this winter, but the current favorites to land him are the Angels’ cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Known for making big splashes in free agency, the Dodgers are a consistently competitive team, where Ohtani’s success would see no limits. Other proposed teams include the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, and New York Mets.

For Ohtani, the decisions to come in the offseason will be immense. For now however, the young star will need to focus on his rehabilitation, hoping to return a more dynamic player than ever before.

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