SEAside Thoughts: Does Ohtani’s injury change Seattle’s free agent plans?

93rd MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard
93rd MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

For about a month now, the biggest story in baseball was our own Seattle Mariners. A 17-9 July record followed by a 17-5 August so far has seen the Seattle Mariners surge ahead into a stunning tie for 1st place in the AL West, the latest in a season for your Mariners in literally 20 years to the day (I’m serious!). While this dramatic charge has been incredible to see, unfortunately a bigger storyline has unfolded in the past few days. 

On Wednesday night it was reported that Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani had suffered a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his right elbow. Shohei Ohtani will continue to play DH, but he will not pitch for the rest of this season. With a second Tommy John surgery likely required, we may not see the greatest baseball player ever pitch not just in 2024, but maybe ever. From 2018’s free agency chase to the love shown at the All-Star Game in Seattle, Ohtani has long been a crown jewel to the eyes of all Mariners fans. With this significant injury affecting Ohtani’s 2024 season and possibly longer, should this change the way Seattle should feel about chasing after the biggest free agent prize ever?

I believe that there is no better team equipped to handle the injury situation like the Seattle Mariners could. With one of the youngest and best starting rotations in the league, the Seattle Mariners have been able to withstand injuries from guys like Robbie Ray, Marco Gonzales, and Emerson Hancock. With Ray and Hancock looking like they could realistically be back by next May or June, there’s enough depth and more than enough talent for the rotation to be fine in 2024 with Ohtani. If Ohtani is able to return to form in 2025, the Seattle Mariners will be looking at a potential rotation of Ohtani, Luis Castillo, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, and Robbie Ray. That’s a former Cy Young winner as your #5 starter. 

I believe that the hitting prowess, underrated baserunning ability, future returning ace potential, and the financial boom that would come from bringing the biggest baseball star in decades to your team will be too strong of a pull for Ohtani to not get a real offer. I expect there will be some markers for pitching that will need to be hit in order to exercise some bonuses, but Ohtani is arguably a $35 million dollar bat AAV on just his offense.

To get your foot in the door on an Ohtani negotiation, you’re going to need to bring a $500 million dollar offer to the table. To get a legitimate seat at the table and have a real chance, you’re probably looking at a $550 million dollar deal. How creative that contract is, the environment of your city, and the competitiveness of your team may be what makes or breaks the deal. I have no inside information, but I believe that the three true contenders for Ohtani are the Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers are viewed in the insider industry as having easily met all of these criteria. Whether the Giants and Mariners can meet them as well, that remains to be seen (looking at you Mr. Stanton). 

If the Seattle Mariners do get Shohei Ohtani, it would be arguably the biggest moment for the franchise in nearly 25 years. It would signal that Seattle ownership is fully committed to building a championship team, as a championship caliber team will have added the most talented player the game has ever seen, in the early stages of his prime. With Julio and Shohei, Seattle would be the epicenter of the baseball world. If Ohtani chooses to sign elsewhere, this should not excuse ownership from sitting on their butts this winter, no matter how great or bad this season ends. 

I’m not saying that Seattle needs to spend the exact same dollar amount it would take to get Ohtani in this year’s free agency, but there are still paths to properly compliment this team to be better in 2024. Jerry Dipoto and Justin Hollander can bring in the hometown former Cy Young winner in Blake Snell, a powerful bat in Rhys Hoskins, without surpassing Ohtani’s yearly value. The addition of a pitcher like Snell allows leadership the freedom to trade a young pitching prospect or two to acquire a young star bat to truly make this offense elite. Without getting too deep into fantasy land, but it’s not unreasonable to think Snell, Hoskins, and + bat acquired through trade (Randy Arozarena anyone?) would be a better 2024 team than bringing in Shohei Ohtani as just a hitter. 

At the end of the day, I’ll take the player and the draw that comes with adding a generational talent like Shoehei to Seattle. The fit seems perfect mutually, and Seattle may be rewarded handsomely in the long run if they trust in Ohtani’s health. It’s a new world we’re living in. The Seattle Mariners are in first place and look like the best team in the American League. I continue to believe that Seattle should and would commit to adding Ohtani if he wanted to be a Mariner, creating a potential new dynasty in baseball, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t risk. 

What would you do?

Go M’s