Shohei Ohtani wins AL MVP honors with his blockbuster free agency

Given his unparalleled ability to accumulate value as a hitter and pitcher, it will likely be more surprising if Shohei Ohtani is not named the most valuable player in his league than if he is.

After Aaron Judge needed a record-setting season to surpass him last season, Ohtani was again unanimously selected American League MVP in 2023 after hitting 44 homers and 167 batters batted in for the Los Angeles Angels.

The only real threat to his candidacy was the fact that he did not play on the field in August and September due to an injury, and also did not score in the last few weeks of the season. But just like in 2021 and with the Rookie of the Year award in 2018, Ohtani ran away with the award anyway. He became the first player to unanimously win more than one MVP award.

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“Obviously I wanted to win it last year, but Judge had a spectacular season and deservedly won it,” Ohtani said on MLB Network through Angels translator Ippei Mizuhara. “. . . My goal was to be at the top and I think it paid off, all my hard work.

The man who won National League Rookie of the Year honors in 2018, Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., shared the award with Ohtani again when he was named NL MVP – also unanimously, for the first time in a voting process that began in 1931 both MVP winners were extremely convincing.

Ohtani’s magical season began in March at the World Baseball Classic, where the two-way star finished the championship by defeating teammate and three-time MVP Mike Trout. He was putting together a Cy Young-caliber pitching season with a 3.14 ERA in 23 starts before an elbow injury ended his pitching season. As a hitter, he batted .304 with 44 homers and a 1.066 OPS.

By late July, he and the Angels were still in contention for a postseason berth, so much so that they made a purchase at the trade deadline for the first time during Ohtani’s tenure. Within a month, almost everyone they had signed was released, robbing them of their last chance to reach the postseason before he became a free agent. Ohtani’s season as a hitter ended a few days later, and he underwent elbow surgery in late September.

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The 29-year-old is the most coveted free agent this offseason – and perhaps ever – although he won’t see the field in 2024. Ohtani, who has not otherwise spoken publicly to U.S. reporters since early August, was scheduled to address them after the ceremony on Thursday evening. Half an hour after the phone call was scheduled, an MLB official said the call would be canceled for reasons beyond Ohtani’s control, emphasizing that it was “not Shohei’s fault in the slightest.”

Acuña also missed a scheduled conversation with the baseball media, but for a completely different reason: He was taking the field for a match against Tiburones de La Guaira in the Venezuelan winter league. He joins Miguel Cabrera and Jose Altuve as the only Venezuelan-born players to win the award.

Braves outfielder put together a season that seemed to be his norm before a knee injury derailed his career two years ago. He became the fifth player in MLB history to score 40 runs and steal 40 bases in the same season, and also led the major leagues with 73 stolen bases, 19 more than the next closest player. He hit .337 with 41 homers and a 1.012 OPS.


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