Yankees bow out of race for superstar two-way player

Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani  (New York Yankees)
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are expected to pursue some of the best talents on the free agent market, but we can rule out one two-way superstar who is expected to land a deal in the $500 million range.

According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, the Yankees aren’t pursuing Shohei Ohtani, a 29-year-old superstar who just underwent Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani won’t pitch in 2024, but he should be able to offer his offensive expertise as a designated hitter, which is still a valuable asset. This past season, Ohtani played 135 games, hitting .304 with a .412 OBP and .654 slugging rate, including 44 homers and 95 RBIs. Many believed that he would smash Aaron Judge’s home run record set just one year prior, but the injury derailed his season, finishing with a 180 wRC+ and 6.6 WAR.

The Yankees Need Healthy Players Now

Unfortunately, Ohtani doesn’t fit the bill for the Yankees due to several reasons, notably Giancarlo Stanton‘s existence as the primary DH and the fact the team still owes him $98 million in luxury tax salary until a $10 million buyout in 2028.

In addition, for the cost of Ohtani, the Yankees can likely land Juan Soto in free agency, if not trade for him this off-season, and sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto, covering a significant portion of his expected contract.

That strategy would indicate getting two players for the price of one, but Ohtani transcends an average player. He finished with elite pitching numbers as well this past season, hosting a 3.14 ERA, 11.39 strikeouts per nine, and an 80.3% left-on-base rate across 132 innings pitched. He hasn’t pitched any fewer than 130 innings over the past three seasons, but the latest injury will keep him out until 2025.

There’s also the well-known reality that Ohtani prefers the West Coast, making the Los Angeles Dodgers a likely landing spot.

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A Team That Needs Help On Both Sides

The Yankees need pitching now and can’t afford to wait an entire season for Ohtani to return, especially given he’s about to earn half $1 billion dollars.

General manager Brian Cashman will be trying to spread the wealth, especially since managing owner Hal Steinbrenner is cautious about passing the $300 million active payroll. In fact, he indicated that teams had managed success at a much lower price, and while the Yankees are expected to be aggressive and spend big this off-season, it needs to result in wins, otherwise, Steinbrenner could make drastic decisions in the future.