MLB insider not ‘counting out’ Yankees from Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes

shohei ohtani, yankees, angels
Jul 29, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) looks up after grounded out in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees stand before a crucial decision this off-season, weighing the benefits of splurging on a high-profile free agent against the potential gains of strategic trading to bolster their lineup.

The Juan Soto Speculation and an Alternative Approach

Rumors are swirling around the Yankees’ interest in superstar lefty slugger Juan Soto, with preliminary discussions already underway. However, the Yankees, known for their deep pockets, might shift their focus to Shohei Ohtani if they decide to open their financial floodgates.

Ohtani’s Predicament: Location Preferences and Financial Lures

Securing Ohtani is a challenging endeavor for the Yankees, given his preference for the milder West Coast climate over East Coast winters. Despite this, the allure of a lucrative contract might be a game-changer, compelling Ohtani to entertain a potential deal.

The aftermath of his Tommy John surgery complicates matters, sidelining him from pitching in 2024, though he’s projected to be up to bat. This situation could lead to a more favorable negotiation for the Yankees, albeit Ohtani will still demand a hefty salary, justified by his crowd-pulling international appeal.

Expert Insights: The Yankees’ Prospective Moves

ESPN’s Jeff Passan expresses skepticism about the Yankees’ pursuit of Ohtani, without ruling them out completely. He suggests Yoshinobu Yamamoto could be a more realistic target, possibly topping the Yankees’ preference list.

Assessing Ohtani’s Track Record and Value

At 29, Ohtani boasts a solid performance history, hitting .304 with a .412 OBP, 44 homers, and 95 RBIs this season alone. His pitching statistics, though impressive, are overshadowed by his recent need for surgery, impacting his immediate utility, especially considering the Yankees’ existing commitment to their pricey designated hitter, Giancarlo Stanton.

Given the circumstances, the Yankees-Ohtani partnership seems ill-timed, prompting a stronger case for targeting Yamamoto or trading for an established star like Soto, who, despite defensive shortcomings, delivers offensive prowess and outfield versatility.

Yamamoto’s Compelling Performance

Yamamoto, fresh off an exceptional season in Japan, pitched 164 innings in the JPPL, achieving a 1.21 ERA, surrendering only 22 earned runs, and striking out 169 batters. The 25-year-old’s impressive three-year streak of exceeding 170 innings highlights his reliability.

Weighing Risks: Ohtani’s Injury History Versus Soto’s Consistency

Ohtani’s past injuries present a gamble that could backfire for the Yankees. In contrast, Soto’s consistent record — participating in at least 150 games over five years, with the COVID-shortened season being the exception — depicts a more stable investment. This contrast further illuminates the strategic crossroads the Yankees face this off-season, necessitating a blend of caution and calculated risk in their decisions.

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