It seems difficult for Shohei Ohtani, who underwent elbow surgery, to receive the expected ransom originally proposed by local experts in the free agent market at the end of this year.
Ohtani, who is expected to sign the largest free agent contract ever, underwent right elbow ligament surgery on the 20th (Korean time). Ohtani, who dominated the major leagues by serving as a pitcher for three seasons, plans to play full-time as a designated hitter next year. As a pitcher, the plan is to take a season off and return in 2025.
For this reason, some say that there is bound to be a change in the FA evaluation value regarding the possibility of a successful comeback as a pitcher. Ohtani’s worth has been estimated to be at least $500 million. When he continued his top performance in Tuta last June and July, up to $700 million was mentioned.
The Orange County Register said in an article on July 7, ‘Ohtani plays two roles. The salary of a top hitter and an ace pitcher must be combined. He said, “If it is a 10-year contract, $664 million is logically appropriate,” but added, “However, it is calculated based on contract data before 2021, and if inflation of about 5% is applied, you can receive $701 million.” .
But now a major variable has occurred. As a pitcher, he must take at least a year off, and even if he returns in 2025, there may be doubts as to whether he will be able to throw fast balls exceeding 100 mph and sharp sweepers and splitters with stable control.
What draws attention in this section is the type of surgery Otani underwent.
Dr. Neil Elatrace of the Cullan-Jove Clinic in Los Angeles, who performed the surgery, said, “After careful consideration with Ohtani, the conclusion we reached was to reinforce the healthy ligament in place while at the same time attaching tissue that can function independently to ensure that the elbow can endure for a long time.” “We expect that he will recover completely and be able to bat without any restrictions in next year’s opening game, and that he will be able to participate as both a pitcher and a batsman in 2025.”
According to USA Today, there are three main surgical methods for elbow ligament (UCL) rupture. One is a surgery to completely reconstruct the UCL, in which ligaments from other areas are transplanted. It is commonly called Tommy John Surgery (TJS).
The second method is to repair the damaged ligament area and strengthen the ligament using an internal brace, but the rehabilitation period is shorter than TJS and it is a surgical method preferred by hitters. The third method is to combine the two methods, transplanting the ligament and applying a splint. On the surface, it has the advantage of further strengthening the ligament. This is a recommended method for athletes who have received TJS twice.
Usually, the rehabilitation success rate for the first TJS reaches 85%, but it is known to be much lower for the second. For this reason, pitchers tend to shy away from the second TJS. This appears to be the second surgery Otani has undergone.
Ohtani received the TJS on October 1, 2018, when he debuted in the Major League. He returned as a hitter in May of the following year, and took the mound as a pitcher at the end of July 2020. His rehabilitation period is expected to be similar this time as well. As Dr. Elatrace predicted, it is possible for the batsman to return in early April next year. This means it will take 6 to 7 months of rehabilitation. There is an example of Philadelphia Phillies Bryce Harper, who received TJS in November of last year and returned in early May of this year after completing five months of rehabilitation.
Considering that Ohtani, as a pitcher, can be ready by the opening game in the spring of 2025 after taking a full year off next year, it is reasonable to assume that the rehabilitation period will be 18 months.
Clubs will calculate Ohtani’s value taking these series of processes into account, and given the increased uncertainty, it appears that they will have to endure a certain decrease in FA value.
USA Today reported, ‘As the stakes of free agents and those who invest in them increase, clubs, agents and players are becoming increasingly picky about the nature of medical procedures.’ This is not a welcome trend for Otani.