FOX Sports MLB Analyst
Editor’s note: Each week until Shohei Ohtani signs a new deal, Ben Verlander will take a look at a team connected to the game-changing free agent and examine Ohtani’s fit.
The biggest reason Shohei Ohtani to the Texas Rangers makes sense is the most obvious one: As we have heard over and over, he wants to win, and nobody exemplifies “winner” right now more than the World Series champions. Multiple reports have identified the Rangers as not only a team with interest in Ohtani, but also one he has interest in.
Again, it makes perfect sense. Ohtani just watched from afar as the Rangers went on a historic playoff run and raised the World Series trophy, and that’s what he wants. He wants to be part of a winner.
Texas also has a strong core in place for the foreseeable future. The Rangers’ stars in the middle infield, Marcus Semien and World Series MVP Corey Seager, are still in the opening years of the long-term contracts they signed before the 2022 season.
And while those two in particular are major reasons Texas currently has the fifth-highest payroll in baseball, per Spotrac, the club still has plenty of money to spend. The Rangers are nearly $50 million below the luxury tax threshold for 2024, with an ownership group willing to spend it. They can afford Ohtani.
Next, Ohtani fits the Rangers well both in the short and long term. Texas is currently without an entrenched designated hitter as Mitch Garver is also a free agent. Putting Ohtani in this lineup would be downright frightening. We all saw how dangerous the Rangers’ bats are in October. Now, imagine adding the lefty slugger to a batting order with Seager, Semien, Adolis García, Evan Carter, Jonah Heim and so on. It’s already a World Series-winning bunch, even without the potential inclusion of the hitter who led the majors in OPS and the American League in homers.
The long term also projects well in Texas. Postseason star Carter has not even exhausted his rookie eligibility yet after a historic October and is only 21 years old. The only uncertainty with this roster pertains to the starting rotation — which Ohtani can help address. Max Scherzer is under contract for only one more year, and while he is a future first ballot Hall of Famer, the longtime ace is 39 years old and starting to show real wear and tear.
Ohtani faces some uncertainty of his own in coming back to the mound, of course, but would be a welcome addition to any staff once he’s healthy enough to pitch again in 2025. Eventually, the Rangers could be looking at a rotation led by Jacob deGrom and Ohtani. That duo combined with that lineup would set the Rangers up to win many more trophies in the future.
Could Shohei Ohtani end up signing with the Rangers?
Now, in my heart of hearts, I don’t see Ohtani actually putting down roots in Texas. The Rangers still have to address their rotation in the short term, as deGrom continues to recover from his second Tommy John surgery and Jordan Montgomery is on the open market. Ohtani’s contract would likely put the Rangers near the luxury tax threshold without them having addressed those holes in the pitching staff.
I don’t know for certain whether Ohtani sees the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex as a place he could settle down; it’s hard for me to envision that being a major appeal to him. But, again, I do believe winning matters to him this time around much more than location did in his first foray with free agency.
And if he wants to win, where better to try to do so than with the defending champs?
Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the “Flippin’ Bats” podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @BenVerlander.
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