Didn't See That Coming: Shohei Ohtani Has a Damaged Elbow

Social Navigation

Didn’t See That Coming: Shohei Ohtani Has a Damaged Elbow

Chicago Cubs

When two-way Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani decided to forego hundreds of millions of dollars by jumping over to the states this offseason (instead of waiting just two more years when he’d be an unrestricted free agent), we were told it was because of his desire to test himself against the very best.

And, sure, it probably was partly that. Maybe even mostly that.

But maybe it wasn’t the only reason …

In a very surprising report, Jeff Passan reveals that Ohtani has a damaged ulnar collateral ligament and underwent a platelet-rich plasma injection this October as treatment. To be quite sure, a “first-degree sprain” like this one “is the least severe of UCL injuries,” but it could lead to Tommy John surgery down the road. Sometimes pitchers can successfully pitch through a partially-torn UCL for a long time, though you don’t see it nearly as often as you see surgery. It depends, of course, on the extent of the damage. (Interestingly, Masahiro Tanaka, who himself came over from Japan a few years ago, is the most recent notable example to successfully pull it off.)

Apparently, teams were not made aware of this issue until Ohtani entered the MLB posting system, but at least the Angels knew what they were getting into before they inked him to a deal (and let’s be clear, you’d still take Ohtani on that deal every day of the week and twice on Sundays). BUT STILL. This changes so much about Ohtani, his decision to come now, and, most importantly, his future outlook.

And that’s not even everything! In addition to the damaged UCL, Ohtani reportedly has a “small free body” floating near his UCL, which is yet another gamble the Angels willingly (but, again, understandably) got themselves into – oh, and Ohtani also had ankle surgery in Japan this past October.

And in case you forgot, the Angels paid more than $2.3M to sign Ohtani (trading for $1M in IFA bonus pool space in the process), and they also paid his former Japanese team a $20M posting fee. They did this knowing full-well what Ohtani had brewing in his elbow/ankle, but I still can’t believe how much of this is only now coming out.

For their part, the Angels are content, telling Passan they were comfortable with the MRI and it showing things consistent with a pitcher of Ohtani’s age:

Eppler also spoke to MLB.com, saying that the PRP injection Ohtani received in Japan was “preventative,” which is not something you typically hear.

In the end, every team in baseball would still want Ohtani under these circumstances (I mean, clearly, because they did find out before he signed), but you can certainly feel *slightly* better about the Cubs missing out on his sweepstakes. He’s much less of a sure-fire, game-changer now than he was (to us) an hour ago.

For the fun factor, though, here’s hoping this is all much ado about nothing, and Ohtani plays through the injury without issue, having a long, productive, and maybe even two-way career.

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.

Latest from Bleacher Nation:

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami