Two weeks ago, the Angels announced that Shohei Ohtani was done pitching for the season after imaging revealed a tear in the UCL of his throwing elbow. Ohtani has yet to address that injury with that media, but his agent, CAA’s Nez Balelo, met with reporters this evening.
Balelo called it “inevitable” that Ohtani will need to undergo some type of procedure (relayed by Dylan Hernández of the Los Angeles Times). Whether that’ll be a full Tommy John surgery or something less invasive (e.g. an internal brace repair) is still to be determined.
According to Balelo, the tear is in a different area than the injury that necessitated Ohtani’s October 2018 Tommy John surgery. He called it a “best case scenario” given the situation (via Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times). Balelo made clear that Ohtani plans to be in the lineup as a designated hitter next season. He stressed that “there’s not a question in (Ohtani’s) mind” he’ll eventually be able to return to pitching as well, though that timetable remains uncertain pending their decision on the specific treatment necessary (relayed by Alden González of ESPN).
Shortly after the UCL tear was discovered, Halos’ general manager Perry Minasian told reporters that Ohtani and CAA declined the team’s offer to undergo imaging after the two-way star reported finger cramping in early August. While that could be interpreted as a shot at Ohtani or his representation, Balelo said they had no issue with the Angels going public with that information (via Sam Blum of the Athletic). He confirmed that Ohtani declined imaging at the time.
Ohtani has continued hitting since the injury, raking at a .300/.500/.500 clip in 43 plate appearances. It seems he’ll continue as the DH, at least until the plan to address his elbow is finalized. The AL MVP favorite is up to an astounding .304/.412/.654 batting line and is tied with Matt Olson for the major league lead with 44 home runs.
Even with uncertainty about his short-term outlook on the mound, Ohtani stands as the clear top player in the upcoming free agent class. If he prioritizes the overall guarantee, the 29-year-old seems likely to eclipse the $360MM record which Aaron Judge established last winter. Teams will obviously closely monitor his arm health to assess the likelihood he’ll be able to recapture his top-of-the-rotation form whenever he’s healthy enough to again begin throwing.