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We hate to be a buzzkill. But the recent Shohei OhtaniYankees trade discourse is skipping over an inconvenient reality.

The Bombers are clearly interested. General manager Brian Cashman reportedly made a serious offer to the Angels before the trade deadline. But remember: Ohtani wanted absolutely nothing to do with New York when he arrived from Japan. Or the East Coast, for that matter. Which would seem to be an important consideration if/when the Bombers move to trade for the two-way phenom and then commit — conservatively — half a billion dollars to him.

Ohtani’s seven finalists when he posted in 2017: The Angels, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres and Rangers. Not exactly cow towns. But also nothing close to the crucibles inhabited by the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, et cetera. Plus he chose the Halos over far sexier options on the hand-picked list.

It’s certainly possible five seasons in Anaheim without a whiff of the postseason has changed Ohtani’s mind. But some doubt that. “I don’t think he’s an East Coast guy,” a club executive told The Athletic. “West Coast (landing spot). That’s my guess.”

Even if Ohtani is open to the Yankees, it does not mean it’s a smart move. The last thing they want to do is give up a big trade haul — be it established big leaguers or promising prospects — to find out he can’t function here. Especially when you may have just invested significant capital in Aaron Judge and may get another crack at Juan Soto after the 2024 season.


And that’s before we even address Ohtani’s on-field merits. Yes, the prospect of Modern Babe Ruth in pinstripes is tantalizing. No argument there. Ohtani is a historic talent. He’s also already 28, has had Tommy John surgery and there is literally no precedent to inform how long he will be able to play both ways at an elite level.

Ohtani is currently worth $50 million a year (or whatever the number ends up being) because he’s two All-Stars in one. But what happens when he stops pitching? That may not happen anytime soon. It could also happen very soon. There is no way of knowing. Which makes the long-term deal he will almost assuredly demand risky. That would be one thing if money was still no longer an object for the Yankees. But it has become very much that under owner Hal Steinbrenner.

We would not necessarily run to give Judge a 10-year deal. But doing that might actually carry less risk than giving Ohtani a deal with the same length. Especially if they have to give up a great deal to acquire him first. The Angels are not going to want to rebuild, so they will likely want big leaguers back in any deal. We’d argue that’s more of an ask than prized prospects that are more or less lottery tickets. Which is why the Yankees should stay away from an Ohtani trade. And tread lightly if and when the superstar hits free agency.

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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.