Shohei – Going, Going, Gone!

With the start of the 2023 baseball season, and more Ohtani sightings, the media is again in a frenzy for what the future holds for Shohei. Trout announced recently on ESPN that, “I’m going to do whatever I can to keep him here.” Trout has a contract with the Angels until 2030, and his hope is that Shohei, like him, will just stay put and get comfortable with what could be the largest monetary contract in MLB history. 

Both Minasian and owner, Moreno, have stated publicly that they are committed to extension discussions. Here’s the reality: Shohei is NOT looking for “comfortable.” He wants to win, and the Angels have not made the playoffs for the 8th season. It’s not the money that motivates Shohei; he could have stayed in Japan longer and would have earned considerably more. As an incoming international player under the age of 25, he could only receive the league minimum salary, but his desire to play in the MLB was his priority. Let’s look at what team would best benefit from acquiring this two-way superstar, and what considerarions we think would shape any decisions Shohei makes as a free agent. 

Minasian promised to build more depth in the Angels lineup by recruiting more major league talent. He made some good choices, but in our opinion, not good enough to take the Angels to the playoffs in 2023. Their bullpen is still lacking, and their starters after Ohtani are questionable and unproven. We predict Shohei will NOT stay with the Angels, but will stay on the west coast. 

The large Japanese community in California has welcomed Shohei with open arms. He’s a household name in Japan, and his Japanese-American fans are passionate about their support. Ohtani has noticed. No media outlet has commented on the “Ippei Factor.” Ippei has known Shohei for 5 years with the Fighters before returning to California with him to join the Angels as his interpreter. He’s always at Ohtani’s side, even when Shohei is not actively playing baseball. California is Ippei’s home and he has family there. The sun, sand, proximity to Japan, and Ippei’s influence bolsters our prediction that Shohei will not leave California, and probably sign with the Padres or the Dodgers. 

What does Shohei see when he looks at the Dodgers? He sees a team that is a fit with an opportunity for him to attain his career goals. Observers have noted that the Dodgers have deliberately not been spending prior to this season. There is little doubt that Shohei is the asset that they’ve been saving up for in 2024. Here’s the attraction. The Dodgers won 111 games while sustaining the most runs per game by a team in 2022. They lost Anderson and Heaney in free agency and replaced them with injury-prone starters like Syndergaard. Ohtani is the fit they need because he adds another “left-handed at bat” with Freeman, and he solidifies one of the upper-tier pitching rotations. We predict the Dodgers will lock Shohei in before free agency even starts. 

Shohei is no “normal player,” and there will be no normal negotiations. Wherever Shohei decides to find a new home, OhtaniCanada will be under the roof of that new home with him. 

*Opinions expressed are those of OhtaniCanada and Edwin Lee (long time follower)

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