Devastating news dropped in the early morning hours on Thursday when it was reported Shohei Ohtani suffered a tear in his UCL, which could require Tommy John surgery. The two-way star previously underwent the procedure in 2018, which kept him off the mound in 2019. He made just 12 total starts from 2018-2020.
Ohtani is seeking a second opinion on the injury in an attempt to avoid surgery. Another Tommy John would keep him off the mound until 2025 and off the field as a hitter until, at the earliest, next July.
Though some might say this may not impact his free agency value dramatically, it's hard to side with that perspective until he signs a contract. If teams like the Dodgers, Padres, Mariners, Angels, Giants and a select few others were ready to offer a $500 million-plus contract, how can they not be potentially shifting their thought process when considering the long-term outlook for Ohtani after a second Tommy John surgery?
The New York Yankees were never expected to be suitors, especially with Ohtani's escalating cost and the fact he spurned them back in 2018, not even taking a meeting with them before signing with the Angels.
That made this offseason a tad more advantageous for New York. Brian Cashman could let the other big market teams get distracted in the Ohtani bidding war while the Yankees calmly orchestrated their much-needed roster re-tool without too much interference on other free agents and the trade market.
Shohei Ohtani injury could totally ruin Yankees' offseason plans
But now, the rest of the free agent pool could get messy with other unexpected suitors jumping into the mix. The trade market could be even more crowded with teams looking for a top hitter/pitcher, something Ohtani was supposed to check two boxes for among those interested.
In recent years, all of the Dodgers, Mariners, Angels and Padres have proven to be more aggressive than the Yankees. If those teams are now theoretically being stripped of their top target in free agency, they'll quickly be formulating different ways to address their 2024 roster if they no longer deem Ohtani a worthwhile investment.
Who do you trust more to get what they want? Andrew Friedman, AJ Preller and Jerry Dipoto, or Cashman?
There's always the possibility Ohtani's market remains unaffected because of how he'll revamp revenue streams for just about any franchise with his mere presence. But the investment pre-injury was already expected to be an all-time number by ~$100 million, and those looking to acquire him were factoring in his impact in the immediate future.
Now, for example, teams that would've previously been pursuing Ohtani in need of an ace could shift their attention to Corbin Burnes on the trade market or Blake Snell/Julio Urías in free agency. Those looking for a dangerous lefty slugger may now prioritize Juan Soto if the Padres are looking to shift gears, or Cody Bellinger when he likely opts out of his Cubs deal.
It's anyone's guess who the Yankees plan to pursue, but Ohtani's injury will likely throw a wrench into whatever underwhelming plans Cashman and Co. had.