Why Red Sox still feel like long shots to land Shohei Ohtani

Jon Heyman of the New York Post is always good for Red Sox rumors, and on Thursday, he dropped a nugget that, according to one interested team, the Red Sox are a “real threat” to sign free agent megastar Shohei Ohtani this winter.

 

That may be one executive’s perception that makes sense from afar — the Red Sox have whipsawed between spending and tending the farm over the last decade, so they’re due to plunk down the AmEx — but color me skeptical they’ll win the bidding for the two-way star, or more importantly, if their offer will even matter.

 

We know little about Ohtani’s priorities, except that he wants to play for a winner. “It sucks to lose,” he said through a translator at the All-Star Game, and if reaching the playoffs is his mission statement, then the Red Sox hardly look appealing.

 

Their case to him would be: We hit on our prospects, spend some money on pitchers, and vault back into contention. (Probably best not to mention the loaded American League East.) But if you’re Ohtani, there’s no reason to take that gamble when other clubs with more recent records of success will be in the hunt, whether it’s the perennially contending Dodgers or either New York team, since the Yankees never stay down for long, and the deep-pocketed Mets are only a year removed from winning 101 games.

 

 

 

Ohtani recently signed a sponsorship deal with Boston-based New Balance, leading some to theorize that relationship could entice him to Fenway, to which I say, uhh, sure. Unless Ohtani really loves his sneaker company, that leaves the Red Sox with only one path to acquiring his services, and that’s blowing him away with the biggest contract in the history of professional sports.

 

Unfortunately, John Henry has done nothing in the last five years to make us think that’s likely. And more relevantly, unless he has junked the actuarial tables that made him rich, it’s hard to see him assuming the risk that Ohtani not only never pitches again, but is forced by multiple elbow surgeries to make his living as a DH.

 

As it is, we still don’t even know what type of surgery Ohtani just had last month to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Was it a second full Tommy John, or an internal bracing procedure like the one that had Trevor Story back in the lineup within nine months? Either way, considering the stress Ohtani puts on his body, further injury not only can’t be ruled it, it’s probably inevitable. All we know for sure is that he won’t pitch next season.

 

Is that worth 12 years and $500-plus million? Someone will decide it is, and my guess is Ohtani fields multiple offers in a similar range. That means he’ll decide based on other factors, like that stated desire to win. Six years into his career, he still hasn’t appeared in a playoff game, and he turns 30 in July. Do the last-place Red Sox really hold the key to postseason glory?

 

That’s why I have a hard time envisioning the Red Sox making a compelling enough case to land the once-in-a-lifetime player. Their willingness to sign him could conceivably make them “real threats.” But if Ohtani isn’t interested in joining another 78-win team, then they’ll actually be no threat at all.

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