November 9, 2023 | SPORTS | By Anya Potsiadlo
The MLB World Series concluded on Nov. 1, but the 4-1 series win by the Texas Rangers was hardly the most climactic thing in baseball that came with the end of the 2023 season. That would be the contract expiration and subsequent free agency of Shohei Ohtani, a now-former player for the Los Angeles Angels and the MLB’s indisputable best player – the likes of which experts say we haven’t seen since Babe Ruth retired in 1935.
Ohtani boasts record-breaking stats in both hitting and pitching, finishing last season with the league’s highest on-base plus slugging percentage – or OPS, an offensive statistic combining on base percentage plus slugging percentage – as well as retaining a remarkably low ERA and strikeout average, making him a highly coveted player.
So coveted in fact, that it is expected that his next contract will break the MLB’s record for most expensive contract currently held by Ohtani’s former teammate, Mike Trout, who signed a 12-year $426 million dollar contract with the Angels in 2019, and possibly even rivaling the contract Lionel Messi signed with FC Barcelona in 2017 for $674 million.
There are many factors that will inform Ohtani’s decision. The matter is complicated by the fact that the double-threat player will be only allowed to contribute to a lineup offensively next season due to a recent elbow surgery that will keep him away from pitching until 2025.
Since his last contract was signed with the Angels who play in the American League, the National League changed their rules to allow teams to utilize a Designated Hitter, a player who bats in place of the pitcher that was previously only allowed to teams playing in the AL. This, and the fact that his injury will likely lower his market value, means that even more teams are in the running than could be before.
What Ohtani wants is to win. Competing for Team Japan in this years’ World Baseball Classic, he got a taste for victory and has cited his desire to win a World Series title as a huge factor in choosing a team.
There’s a lot of mystery about where Ohtani will end up, but a handful of teams have emerged as frontrunners, including the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. So naturally, I tasked some CC students (with varying levels of expertise in the field) to step into Ohtani’s shoes and decide which team they would pick.
Only 4% of students who were polled saw the 2023 World Series title as compelling enough a reason to choose the Texas Rangers. In fact, it was those who voted for the Cubs who were far more eager to cite a World Series title as a reason for why Ohtani should join the franchise. This win, of course, was in 2016 and broke a record 108-year championship drought, though not for a lack of loyal fans: 27% of students polled voted for the Cubs, citing the franchise’s historic status, and familial ties to the fanbase.
But despite questionable claims from Landon McLean ‘27, who asserts that Chicago has “West Coast vibes,” its Midwestern location might prove to be a disadvantage considering Ohtani has previously mentioned that he would prefer to stay on the West Coast.
Three West Coast teams are seriously in the running for Ohtani, including the Dodgers, Mariners and Giants. The sentiment of those who voted for the Dodgers (19%) largely resembled that of the media, that a big-name player like Ohtani would be most compatible with a high-status, rich and most importantly high-win-rate team like the Dodgers, who already have two of the MLB’s best players in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.
On the Dodgers, Ohtani could have a good shot at winning, and would help solve the problem brought up by Aidan Helgesen ’27, who identifies the lack of a consistent pitching staff in L.A.
“We either have guys get injured or get arrested for domestic abuse, which is not hype,” says Helgesen.
Despite a significant difference in the teams’ propensity to spend on big-name players, the Mariners got the same number of votes as the Dodgers among CC students. These relied heavily on their taste for the city of Seattle as a big compelling factor. Luckily for these CC Seattle natives, however, Ohtani has mentioned that he likes the city as well, stating in an interview at the all-star game in July he’s, “actually spent a couple off-seasons in Seattle,” and has developed a liking for the city.
Emma Serralles ’27, one of the aforementioned Seattle natives, weighs in. “I think that, as a whole, Seattle has a great way of embracing new players,” Serralles said.
When asked to refer to examples of such players, Serralles was unable to provide a name, but speaks instead of the city’s spirit, stating that, “If you give them someone to cheer for, they will cheer.”
Students’ allegiance to their hometown teams also ran strong in those who voted for the Red Sox (20% of voters.) After three unimpressive seasons in four years, the Red Sox fanbase is eager for someone to pull them out of the slump they seem to have been in since losing Mookie Betts to the Dodgers in 2020 free agency.
Plus, as Faye Burke ’27 remarks, “His best friend plays on the Red Sox and I think best friends need to stick together,” referring to Masataka Yoshida, Ohtani’s teammate on the Japanese national team in the World Baseball Classic. “Fenway Franks are the best ever,” Burke adds, “and he can eat as many as he wants when he goes to Boston.”
The remaining team is the Mets, who only got 8% of votes despite having the highest payroll and owner Steve Cohen, who is unafraid to offer Ohtani the highest-paying contract he might see. “If he wants a hopeful future in the sport of baseball,” says self-proclaimed Mets-hater Dillon Fowle ’27, “the Mets are not the option.”
A lot hangs in the balance for Shohei Ohtani, and it’s clear that he should look no further than CC’s campus for the most well-informed opinions to inform his half-a-billion-dollar-choice.