Going into Thursday, the Mets’ odds to make the playoffs were 1%. The Yankees were at 0.3%.
So not zero.
Those puny numbers may also be our local teams’ odds of signing Shohei Ohtani when he becomes a free agent after the season. Most observers think Ohtani doesn’t want to play on the East Coast.
Ohtani proved that was true -- at least at the time – when he didn’t even give the drooling-after-his-talent Yankees a meeting before he signed with the Angels in 2017. The Mets, in their pre-Steve Cohen days, weren’t a factor.
But did things change on Wednesday when Ohtani suffered a ligament tear in his elbow while pitching? The two-way superstar won’t pitch for the rest of this season, and a second Tommy John surgery could be in his future.
Since Ohtani is a unicorn, even after walking off the mound in the first game of a doubleheader, he was the DH in Game 2.
If Ohtani can’t pitch next season, won’t it be hard for him to attract a $500 million or so contract? The bidding for a healthy, two-way Ohtani might have started at half a billion and only increased from there, especially if Cohen threw the full weight of his fortune into the pursuit.
Now, with Ohtani potentially a hitter only for a while – albeit one of the best ones, if not the best, in baseball – could Cohen still make an offer that defies all baseball logic and blows away every other suitor?
He certainly could. Cohen could offer Ohtani so much more money than any other team that the superstar’s reported reticence about the East Coast could melt away behind all those dollar signs.
Cohen’s financial advantage would have been lessened if West Coast teams such as the Angels and Dodgers and Padres and Giants and Mariners had decided to bid all-out for Ohtani as a two-way star.
Only one owner in baseball is likely to still be OK with breaking the bank for Ohtani even if he doesn’t throw a pitch until, say, 2025. That’s in line with when the Mets are hoping to ramp up again, anyway, right?
And it goes without saying that Ohtani, even if he doesn’t take the mound in 2024, would make the Mets better on the field and more interesting off it next season in what is supposed to be a transition year.
Speaking of transitions, there’s another, less free-spending team in town in the Yankees (still feels weird to say that). Brian Cashman went nuts for Ohtani in 2017, seeing the Japanese star as a generational talent, which is worth noting since Cashman has gotten more wrong than right lately. But the Yankees were snubbed, and snubbed hard.
Cashman promised a top-to-bottom review of the entire organization on Wednesday.
Let’s save him the time: The Yankees started to go south when they decided they didn’t need to chase the best available free agents, such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and instead decided they were going to out-smart rather than out-spend other front offices.
The Yankees used to be the Cohen Mets. When they wanted a free agent such as Gerrit Cole, they put on a full-court press and (more importantly) offered the longest and largest contract possible. But Cole is the only recent example.
Cashman fell on his sword on Wednesday, but it’s Hal Steinbrenner who should be on the clock. What bigger splash could the owner make to assuage his dissatisfied fanbase than bringing in the game’s biggest star to twin with its other biggest star in Aaron Judge (who is still the best player on the Yankees even with only nine healthy toes)?
Steinbrenner doesn’t have Cohen money, but he has plenty. If given the chance to bid this time, the Yankees should make sure they’re in the general vicinity of Cohen’s top offer and hope Ohtani has a heretofore undisclosed affinity for pinstripes.
Either club signing Ohtani is still a longshot. If there’s an opening for the Mets and Yankees, it’s a small one. But it might have gotten a teeny, tiny bit larger when Ohtani walked off the mound and into an uncertain free agent future on Wednesday afternoon.