May 21, 2024

Purple Sox

Shohei Ohtani might signal the priciest contract in MLB historical past this winter.

Shohei Ohtani captured his second AL MVP in three seasons final week. (AP Photograph/Mark J. Terrill, File)

COMMENTARY

Adjustments are coming for the Purple Sox this winter.

With Boston coming off of a last-place end for the third time in 4 seasons, Craig Breslow and the Purple Sox have to make a splash (or two … or three) in the course of the offseason to shift the narrative round a workforce marred with inactivity and lackluster returns out on the sphere.

And if the Purple Sox are prepared to open up their checkbook searching for a splash, you may’t get any higher than Shohei Ohtani. 

The 29-year-old megastar — contemporary off of a second AL MVP honor in three seasons — is primed to land the heftiest contract in MLB historical past, if not in all of North American sports activities. 

Ohtani’s worth could be marred in 2024, contemplating that an elbow process will preclude him from pitching all 12 months. However even with a season saved off the mound, it wouldn’t come as a lot of a shock if some workforce arms him not less than $500 million in free company.

However ought to the Purple Sox be those handy him that megadeal? 

With Boston reportedly anticipated to be within the combine for the two-way slugger/ace, let’s weigh the professionals and cons of the Purple Sox signing Ohtani. 

PRO: A seismic splash 

The Purple Sox are greater than only one participant away from establishing themselves as perennial contenders.

However doling out a record-setting contract to arguably one of many prime sporting icons on the planet can be a shot throughout the bow to the remainder of MLB — and a stern message to an more and more apathetic fanbase — that Breslow and the Purple Sox group are able to make some noise after years of lackluster returns.

Even with yet one more last-place end in 2023, optimism is beginning to bubble up in Boston — buoyed largely by a surge of younger expertise each already on the big-league degree and a crop of kids knocking on the door down within the minors.

However with Boston able to flex some fiscal muscle, signing Ohtani would give the Purple Sox on the spot credibility — and steal headlines in a sports activities market the place the beloved franchise has fallen behind different groups on the town.

Not solely would the sight of Ohtani donning a Purple Sox jersey spike ticket gross sales, TV rankings, and merchandise revenues, it might as soon as once more fixate Boston as one of many epicenters of baseball in the course of the summer season — with tangible star energy (slightly than a fading status) resulting in extra featured airtime on the nationwide airwaves.

For the reason that early 2000s, the Purple Sox recurrently energized its fanbase and asserted itself as one in every of MLB’s premier powers by reeling off seismic offseason trades and inking star gamers to lofty contracts.

After failing to pay up for homegrown stars like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, the Purple Sox can reverse that thrifty narrative briefly order with a deal for Ohtani.

PRO: Taking out two birds with one stone (finally)

Ohtani could not have the ability to pitch this season.

However even along with his worth “restricted” to only his play on the plate, Ohtani can be a welcomed asset within the coronary heart of Boston’s order.

In 135 video games final season, Ohtani slashed 304/.412/.654 with an American League-high 44 residence runs and 95 RBI. In 14 video games at Fenway, Ohtani is batting .310 with two doubles and two residence runs.

His uncooked energy to all fields would result in a number of pitches being deposited into the Inexperienced Monster seats, together with moonshots past the bullpens in proper area. Entrenching a slugger like Ohtani within the lineup alongside gamers like Rafael Devers, Triston Casas, and the subsequent wave of younger expertise might give Boston a feared offense for years. 

After all, Boston’s prime precedence this offseason must be pitching. And regardless that Ohtani will be unable to anchor the Purple Sox rotation in 2024, he could possibly be a really tempting funding if he’s given a clear invoice of well being shifting ahead.

Earlier than his harm this 12 months, Ohtani posted a 10-4 report with a 3.14 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, and 167 strikeouts in 23 begins (132 innings). Over his five-year tenure with the Angels, Ohtani is 38-19 with a 3.01 ERA and 608 strikeouts in simply 481.2 innings of labor.

Not too unhealthy on an Angels workforce that has routinely been mired within the cellar of the AL West.

Sure, the Purple Sox want extra speedy assistance on the mound. But when Boston believes that Ohtani has extra left within the tank, he might set up himself as an ace or stud No. 2 pitcher in 2025 and past. 

CON: A large funding 

There’s no query that the Purple Sox have some cash to throw round this winter.

However it stays to be seen if Boston ought to relinquish most of that monetary flexibility on only one participant — particularly given the a number of areas of the roster that Boston must shore up.

With Boston at present slightly below $50 million in need of reaching the primary CBT threshold of $237 million, most of that money (if not all of it) will likely be spent on Ohtani — placing the Sox on a slippery slope on the subject of their payroll shifting ahead.

Given simply how poor Boston’s pitching was final season, the Sox could be higher served utilizing that cash on a pair of high-end starters like Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Jordan Montgomery, and Eduardo Rodríguez — slightly than allocate all of it on one participant who can’t pitch in 2024.

CON: A possible sq. peg in a spherical gap

Each MLB workforce would welcome a confirmed slugger like Ohtani of their lineup.

However given Boston’s present defensive woes and their reliance on utilizing the DH place to lighten the workload of different lineup regulars, signing Ohtani would give Alex Cora restricted flexibility on the subject of balancing the remainder of his roster.

With Ohtani penciled in on the DH spot, the Purple Sox must maintain Masataka Yoshida in left area all season lengthy, in addition to trot out gamers like Devers, Trevor Story and Casas within the area night time in and night time out.

Ohtani would possibly supply the next upside than Justin Turner at DH (even with Turner placing collectively a really spectacular 2023 season), however the veteran’s means to fit across the infield gave Cora the leeway to take advantage of that DH place.

With Ohtani, that malleability falls to the wayside, even when the returns of Ohtani on the plate typically converse for themselves.

CON: Purchaser beware?

Ohtani would possibly have the ability to inject loads of pleasure into the Purple Sox fanbase this winter.

However a $400-500 million contract might age very poorly if Ohtani’s two-way play declines briefly order.

Not solely is Ohtani set to show 30 subsequent July, however he already has some vital harm considerations which have plagued him for years.

Past the present elbow points that can maintain him off the mound in 2024, Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgical procedure in 2019. Though he rebounded from that first main process, there’s an terrible lot of damage and tear that’s been placed on that elbow.

And even when Ohtani does maintain pitching, Boston wants him to carry out like an ace to make that megadeal value it.

So ought to the Purple Sox be those handy Ohtani half a billion {dollars}?

As tempting because it could be, signing a 25-year-old potential ace like Yamamoto — together with one other pitcher or two that may shore up an space of want in 2024 — seems like the higher play for Breslow and Co.