How the Shohei Ohtani injury news could impact the Cubs' offseason

Two-way superstar and free agent-to-be Shohei Ohtani has a torn UCL - and that news could have a ripple effect in MLB as the offseason draws nearer.

Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Angels - Game One
Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Angels - Game One / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

There are two ways to look at the latest Shohei Ohtani injury news if you're a Cubs fan: with a glass half-full mentality or a glass half-empty one. Regardless of which you gravitate toward, one thing is for sure: this news will have massive ramifications across the sport, including the upcoming offseason - one in which Ohtani is set to headline the free agent class.

Ohtani has a torn UCL, setting him up for a potential second Tommy John surgery in the last 5 years. That means he may not set foot on an MLB mound again until the 2025 campaign - robbing the Japanese talent of the chance to continue doing things no one has ever done before, at least in the short-term.

An optimistic Cubs fan view on the Shohei Ohtani injury

If you're the Cubs - there's no doubt this news will have an effect on your offseason plans. First, the optimistic (albiet risk-laden) possibility. Ohtani's asking price may have just dropped dramatically; coming back from one Tommy John surgery is taxing enough. Doing it twice is no small feat and comes with a tremendous amount of uncertainty.

Reports of a possible $700+ million deal for Ohtani were swirling as recently as last week, all but guaranteeing the Cubs would be on the outside looking in when it came to his services this winter. They'd do their due diligence, sure. But this ownership group and front office isn't about tying up that kind of money in one player.

You can make the argument, though, that if his demands fall considerably - which they may given the uncertainty that now surrounds his ability to dominate on the mound - Jed Hoyer might take a second look at what Ohtani has to offer. Again, and I cannot stress this enough, the price tag would have to fall by hundreds of millions of dollars for this to happen.

A more pessimistic (and realistic) Cubs fan view on the Shohei Ohtani injury

On the other side of the coin, the Cubs have two major needs this offseason: adding to the starting pitching depth, ideally with a top-of-the-rotation arm to slot alongside Justin Steele, and a middle-of-the-order bat.

Ohtani was one of many top-tier starting pitchers poised to hit the market this winter, but if he's going to miss next year as a pitcher, the competition for guys like Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, Julio Urias and others just got a lot stiffer - and could lead to higher-dollar contracts for them on the open market.

Looking at the free agent class from a position player standpoint, it was always a light one. It'll still be headlined by Ohtani because even if he doesn't pitch, he's a tremendous offensive threat, but Cody Bellinger will be hot on his heels after returning to his MVP-caliber form this year with Chicago.

Re-signing Bellinger makes all the sense in the world for the Cubs, even if you think top prospect and defensive wizard Pete Crow-Armstrong will be on the Opening Day roster. Given his relative age and strong showing here in 2023, Bellinger will have plenty of suitors - and if any teams shy away from Ohtani in light of his latest injury, they could pivot here.


Of course, Bellinger comes with his own checkered injury history - one that will undoubtedly keep some teams on the sidelines for his services. But he's not going to cost Ohtani money (even if Ohtani's value is significantly diminished) and the Cubs might have to get a little uncomfortable to keep Belli on the North Side for years to come.