Shohei Ohtani won his second American League MVP award on Thursday. It was a unanimous decision, with all 30 first-place votes going toward the Los Angeles Angels' two-way megastar. It was quite the capstone for Ohtani's remarkable campaign — and maybe his Angels career.
The 29-year-old now hits free agency as the most sought-after player in decades. Even with concerns about Ohtani's future as a pitcher following a second UCL injury, he is arguably the best hitter in baseball and there is limitless marketing potential tied to his international stardom. Teams will line up around the block to make their pitch.
Right now, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the consensus favorite to sign Ohtani, who missed the postseason in all six seasons with the Angels. He is known to enjoy the area and the Dodgers can offer him a chance to compete.
That said, recent reporting revealed that Ohtani cares more about winning and his legacy than location. He is said to be "intrigued" by the 104-win Atlanta Braves, and there's an expectation that teams from all over the country will get involved.
If Ohtani is truly concerned about winning at the highest level, he needs only to check the rest of the MVP voting (and maybe the World Series box scores).
Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager finished second in MVP voting with 24 second-place votes and six third-place votes. The third-place finisher was Marcus Semien, the Rangers' second baseman, who acquired five of the remaining second-place votes, eight third-place votes, 11 fourth-place votes, three fifth-place votes, and three seventh-place votes.
While the Rangers only managed 90 wins and a wild card spot, the regular season dominance of Seager and Semien is difficult to ignore. Factor in the Rangers' subsequent bashing of the competition in the playoffs, and one has to imagine that's an appealing setup for Ohtani. Bob Nightengale of USA Today even pointed to the Rangers as a sleeper if Ohtani decides to leave LA.
MVP voting could guide Shohei Ohtani to his next MLB team
Ohtani is expected to listen to pitches from all over, but which teams can make a stronger case than the Rangers? Texas blew through the MLB postseason with an elite pithing staff and a powerful offense, spearheaded by two MVP runner-ups and a red-hot Adolis Garcia.
The Dodgers' case is similarly strong — Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman finished second and third in National League MVP voting, respectively — but the Dodgers choked (again) in the NLDS against the eventual NL champs from Arizona, an 84-win regular season team. The Dodgers' recent postseason history does not cast them in a favorable light, especially when compared to the Rangers' recent arrival at the mountaintop.
Texas should be able to keep enough pitching around to hold down the fort until Ohtani can take the mound again. On offense, he would be comfortably situated in the middle of the lineup behind two elite offensive weapons. Imagine the Seager-Semien-Ohtani one, two, three punch to open games. It's a tantilizing thought.
Ohtani's 2023 campaign was one for the ages — .304/.412/.654 splits with 44 home runs, 95 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases, not to mention a 10-5 record on the mound with a nifty 3.14 ERA and 1.061 WHIP. He is going to make any team better. It's borderline unfair, however, to imagine him on the reigning World Series champs.