One player’s name will be plastered all over the Major League Baseball transfer market this winter. Shohei Ohtani (29, Los Angeles Angels) is set to become a free agent after this season. He’s the biggest name in free agency and will be the first player in North American sports history to break the $500 million mark.
Three months ago, a $500 million deal for Ohtani seemed like a sure thing. There was even talk of a $600 million-plus deal with a longer term. He’s too good. As a hitter, Ohtani has the stats to challenge for Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors. As a pitcher, he’s a Cy Young contender, and he finished fourth in American League Cy Young voting last year. With both in one body, his value is bound to explode.
On top of that, Ohtani is the biggest star in baseball, and everyone is following his every move. That’s great for marketing and box office. With that in mind, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he would surpass Mike Trout’s (LA Angels) record-breaking contract ($426.5 million over 12 years). But a recent elbow injury could change that.메이저놀이터
Ohtani was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his right elbow while pitching. It’s a different area than the one where he had his first elbow ligament reconstruction surgery (Tommy John surgery) in 2018. While there is some optimism that his recovery will be relatively quick, the surgery will keep him out of 2024 and the first half of 2025. With two elbow surgeries in five years, there’s no guarantee of his pitching level upon return. It’s a matter of when, not if, and it’s hard for anyone to predict right now.
What makes Ohtani special is that he’s an excellent pitcher and hitter anyway. If his value as a dual-pitcher is removed, his price tag will drop. In terms of offensive production alone, he’s no better than Aaron Judge, who signed a nine-year, $360 million deal with the New York Yankees after last season.
However, there are indications that the surgery will not have a significant impact on his value. That’s according to Jim Borden, a columnist for The Athletic and a former major league general manager. On Sept. 9, Borden conducted anonymous interviews with more than a dozen high-level officials from major league clubs. While their opinions varied, the general consensus was that it would still take an astronomical amount of money to acquire Ohtani.
“There was considerable disagreement among front office executives about how the elbow injury would affect Ohtani’s next contract,” Borden writes, “with some expecting his deal to start above $360 million in jersey and include incentives to push it into the $500 million to $600 million range that Ohtani was seeking.
The expectation is that guarantees will be set at the low end of the spectrum, and incentives will be piled on to boost the total. For example, if a pitcher performs well, he’ll get a lot of incentives every year. It’s a contract structure that makes sense if you’re confident in your ability to come back from injury, as it reduces the risk for the team and increases the total for Ohtani.
“Several executives expressed the opinion that Ohtani is such a special talent and such a special case that it would take $500 million to bring him back, even if he could never pitch again,” Borden said, adding, “They felt that he would be the best player on the market this winter, that he was the face of Major League Baseball, that his global appeal would add significant financial value to the franchise, and that there was a chance he could make a full recovery from his injury.
In the end, Borden predicts that the selection criteria for Ohtani will be “winning teams. There’s only so much money clubs can offer anyway, and it’s unlikely there will be much of a difference. He’s likely to choose a team that can win a World Series if the price is similar. “He wants to be center stage on the biggest stage, that’s his goal,” Borden said.
Borden named the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas, Seattle, New York Mets, Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia, and Toronto as possible destinations for Ohtani. The Dodgers were the most likely to sign Ohtani.
The Dodgers already have Friedman (left) and Betts under long-term contracts, and adding Ohtani to the mix would create a formidable batting lineup.
“The Dodgers put themselves below the luxury tax threshold to sign Ohtani in the offseason, but owner Mark Walter will not place financial restrictions on president Andrew Friedman’s efforts to make the Dodgers better,” Borden said, adding, “Can you imagine Ohtani between Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, and is there a better Hollywood script than the Dodgers signing Ohtani as a free agent?
In reality, the Dodgers are one of the few teams in the league that can afford Ohtani’s salary, and they are a perennial pennant contender. Ohtani would also be familiar with the Los Angeles neighborhood. The Dodgers also have a strong history with Japanese players. In many ways, the Dodgers seem like the favorite to land Ohtani.