At some point in the very near future, perhaps by the end of the day Friday, two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani . The Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays are said to be among an unknown number of finalists. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts . Ohtani is earlier this week.
Ohtani, who is still only 29, won his second unanimous AL MVP this past season after leading his league with 44 home runs and throwing 132 innings with a 3.14 ERA. He will not pitched next season after recently having elbow surgery, though he will be ready to hit on Opening Day. Ohtani will be a designated hitter in 2024 and return to being a two-way player in 2025. At least that's the plan, and what his next team will bank on.
If the Blue Jays land Ohtani, it would give their lineup a much-needed jolt of left-handed thump and star power next season, and also potentially add an impact arm to their rotation the year after that. Here's what Toronto's lineup and rotation could look like should the manage to land the game's greatest talent and coolest player.
This past season the Blue Jays received the third-fewest plate appearances from left-handed hitters and their left-handed hitters ranked 18th in OPS among the 30 teams. Ohtani is only one hitter, but he is maybe the best left-handed hitter in the sport, and would go a long way to balancing Toronto's lineup. Consider the possible batting order in 2024:
- RF George Springer, RHB
- SS Bo Bichette, RHB
- DH Shohei Ohtani, LHB
- 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., RHB
- 2B Davis Schneider, RHB
- 3B Cavan Biggio, LHB
- C Alejandro Kirk, RHB
- CF/LF Daulton Varsho, LHB
- CF/LF TBD
If the season started today, Varsho would be in center with a Santiago Espinal/Nathan Lukes platoon in left, so filling that last outfield spot is on the to-do list this offseason. That top four sure is something though, especially if Vlad Jr. can reverse the downward trend he has been on since finishing runner-up to Ohtani in the 2021 AL MVP voting.
That lineup is top heavy, though a top heavy lineup with Ohtani is better than a top heavy lineup without Ohtani. The Blue Jays need Kirk and Varsho to revert to their pre-2023 form with or without Ohtani. It'll be difficult to make a run at the World Series with those two dragging down the lineup. Still, adding Ohtani would give the Blue Jays a greater margin of error, offensively.
The Blue Jays are one of the few teams not desperate for rotation help this offseason. Ohtani not being able to pitch in 2024 is unfortunate, though Toronto is in position to wait out the season. Using only players currently under contract or team control in 2025, here's what the Blue Jays rotation could look like once Ohtani resumes pitching the year after next:
- RHP Kevin Gausman
- RHP Shohei Ohtani
- RHP José Berríos
- RHP Chris Bassitt
- RHP Alek Manoah
- LHP Ricky Tiedemann
That top five is essentially the same top five the Blue Jays will take into 2024, only with Ohtani replacing countryman Yusei Kikuchi. Kikuchi's contract expires after next season. Manoah is a mystery right now. Can he return to his 2022 AL Cy Young vote-getter form? Or is the ineffective 2023 version here to stay? Tiedemann, Toronto's top prospect, should debut at some point in 2024.
Keep in mind Ohtani requires a six-man rotation given his hitting and pitching workload. He does not start on a normal five-day schedule, so the Blue Jays or whichever team signs him will need five other starters. That could work very well with Tiedemann, who figures to be on some sort of workload limit come 2025. Gausman, Berríos, and Bassitt have been reliable workhorses in their careers thus far, though giving them extra rest with a six-man rotation couldn't hurt.
Point is, the Blue Jays are uniquely suited to wait on Ohtani the pitcher until 2025. They have four veteran starters in line for 2024 (Gausman, Berríos, Bassitt, Kikuchi), then Ohtani can slide right into Kikuchi's vacated rotation spot in a year. What happens with Manoah and the No. 5 spot until then? Eh, they'll figure it out. Every team has No. 5 starter questions.