Shohei Ohtani needs to be in a Giants uniform at the beginning of the next season.
Bold statement coming from a college newspaper writer. Let me explain.
Shohei Ohtani is the greatest player in the modern game. We all know that whoever signs Ohtani is going to be handing out probably the biggest contract in the history of the sport, deservingly so. Ohtani was yet again impressive in his shortened 2023 campaign, with many still believing he’ll win the MVP award. Now, there are risks with everything, especially signing a guy who has a track record of injuries recently, but there is no comparison to how valuable a player like Ohtani is.
But why the Giants? It’s pretty straightforward.
San Francisco has a very passionate fanbase who have been patient for a long time. Since winning the World Series in 2014, the Giants have reached the playoffs twice. In both of those (2016 and 2021), they were out in the NLDS. Last year, San Francisco had a deal to sign Carlos Correa in free agency that fell apart due to an apparent injury. There was also about 10 minutes last offseason where everyone thought that they were going to get Aaron Judge (thanks, Jon Heyman), but he changed his mind to come back to the Yankees. Instead of bringing in the star power of Judge and Correa, they settled for Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto. Heck, their former manager came out of retirement to lead the team they beat over a decade ago to their first-ever World Series championship while they just fired theirs. The fans want a better product on the field.
It’s not like they don’t have the resources to attract him, either. Even being able to offer contracts to Correa and Judge proves that they have the money to afford Ohtani. He said he wanted to come to a team he could win with; San Francisco had three World Series wins since 2010. There are plenty of things that the Giants have that should be enticing to any free agent, not just Ohtani, but it’ll be a competitive field.
Teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and Rangers will all be part of the competition. Some might be willing to offer him more than others; some may bounce when they see how much they’d need to pay him.
As for fitting within the organization, Ohtani would help a lackluster offense. The Giants finished in the bottom half of the league in the majority of offensive categories, including total bases, runs, OPS and stolen bases. San Francisco was dead last in the entire MLB with just 57 steals on the year. Ohtani had 20. He also led the entire league in OPS and OPS+ (1.066 and 184). Ohtani’s 44 home runs were enough to be the most in the American League; he was shut down due to injury on Sept. 3.
It was announced that Ohtani won’t pitch in 2024, but he can still be a great piece in the rotation. San Francisco pitched to the 11th–best league-wide ERA in 2023, including an 11th–best WHIP as well, so it’s definitely stronger than their lineup but has room to improve. In 23 starts in 2023, Ohtani pitched to the tune of a 3.14 ERA over 132 innings, good for a 142 ERA+.
The division rival Los Angeles Dodgers are the heavy favorite to sign Ohtani, which should definitely play a role in the Giants’ pursuit. Being able to prevent Ohtani from playing for your in-state/division rival should be incentive enough to go after Ohtani, let alone sign him. Every top baseball analyst has Ohtani going to the Dodgers. If the Giants can steal him away, it brings the fans back into it, it improves the product on the field and it makes you a top destination going forward.
But in the end, I think it all comes back to the fans. Pre-pandemic San Francisco was bringing in around 3.3 million fans a season for a stretch between 2010 and 2018 rather consistently. Since fans have been able to fully come back in 2022, the Giants are now bringing in just around 2.4 million in attendance. Despite a small growth between 2022 and 2023, San Francisco dropped in attendance from 12th to 17th overall in 2023. This is a team that hasn’t really had any superstars in recent memory, and the fans are desperate for one.
Signing Ohtani fixes that and can change the franchise.
Not only are you bringing in a great player, but you also give your fans something to be excited about. The team itself has been mediocre, finishing between a .450 and .500 winning percentage in every season since 2018, except for a random 107-win year in 2021.
It’s time to flip the narrative in San Francisco and solidify themselves as one of the best franchises in the National League. I’m not guaranteeing that he will sign with the Giants, but because of all these reasons, I think they’ll be one of the top teams in the race.