Ohtani’s free agency will be like nothing MLB has ever seen before. Boardroom breaks down what his next contract might look like & which teams are rumored to be in the mix.
The second the Texas Rangers locked up their first World Series title last month, all eyes in MLB turned to Shohei Ohtani and his impending free agency.
Shoot, most eyes were there even before the Fall Classic began.
To say Ohtani has taken the league by storm is an understatement. The two-way star has led the league in WAR each of the last three seasons while ranking in the top 10 among pitchers and top 30 among position players. He’s a modern-day Babe Ruth — only he’s doing things that the Sultan of Swat himself never accomplished.
In theory, every team in the league should be interested in Ohtani, despite him having to undergo elbow surgery, forcing him to stay off of the mound in 2024. Even so, who wouldn’t want to have a true two-way, generational talent on the books? He’s too good to pass up, but because he’s so good, there are also only a handful of teams he’d consider (and only a handful that can afford him).
Buckle up, folks, because this saga won’t end anytime soon. For now, let’s break down who the rumored frontrunners are, as well as some other MLB teams that might be in the mix for Ohtani’s services.
The Shohei Ohtani Free Agent Contract
Before getting into the teams, let’s take a look at what Ohtani’s next contract could look like.
If Ohtani were getting paid proportional to his actual on-field value, he’d get way more than what he will eventually sign for. ESPN took on the challenge of calculating his true value through various metrics, landing on $76 million AAV over the last three years. Even for a generational talent like Ohtani, we won’t get that high for a single season any time soon.
In July, CBS Sports asked multiple MLB insiders what type of contract Ohtani could fetch in free agency; none of them submitted an answer under $500 million. Given, the answers varied in terms of the number of years, but Ohtani does seem destined to shatter Mike Trout’s $426,500,000 record for total contract value.
It’s worth noting, however, that this survey was done before Ohtani’s injury. That he’s coming off TJ and won’t be pitching next season does throw some complications into the mix, such as various escalator clauses, opt-outs, etc.
There’s absolutely risk involved when signing Ohtani at this price. Even so, you can expect the two-way phenom to still bag the biggest contract in MLB history.
SHOHEI OHTANI’S CAREER EARNINGS THROUGH 2023: $42,269,259
Potential Landing Spots
Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s one thing for the biggest news-breakers in the business to report who the frontrunners are in free agency, but it’s entirely different when it comes from your peers. The Athletic conducted a player poll, asking roughly 100 active players a number of offseason-related questions. 57.2% of them predicted Ohtani would end up with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“The Mets and Padres will get in a bidding war and the Dodgers will swoop in,” one AL player told The Athletic.
The Dodgers have been planning for this since last offseason, opting not to spend big money in 2022 with eyes on Ohtani this year. In an effort to save every dollar it can for Ohtani, the team even opted not to extend a qualifying offer to JD Martinez, despite being interested in bringing him back to LA.
New York Mets
Can’t keep the Mets down. Well, at least when it comes to spending in free agency.
A year after opening the checkbooks to sign Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, only for them to have subpar seasons and get traded (with their hefty contracts) at the deadline, Steve Cohen and the Mets could spend big once again on Ohtani.
It might not be the smartest thing to do tax-wise, as the Mets already sit at the highest threshold possible. This means they would be taxed 110% on most of, if not all, a potential Ohtani contract.
If there’s a player worth going into this financial ruin over, though, it’s Ohtani.
Whether it was the World Series win or if they’ve been a dark horse this entire time, the Rangers are becoming increasingly discussed as a potential destination for Ohtani. There was talk that the Rangers wouldn’t wait and were ready to go all-in on the phenom at midseason this year.
After reaching the mountaintop and having a front office that isn’t afraid to spend, is it possible Ohtani will end up in Arlington?
Other Teams in the Mix
Chicago Cubs: The Cubs had a resurgent second half of the 2023 campaign. Couple that with the history of Wrigley Field, and maybe that’s enough to convince Ohtani. Cody Bellinger will also be a hot name this offseason, with the Cubs attempting to obtain his services moving forward over other interested parties.
Boston Red Sox: ESPN wrote that Ohtani is “intrigued” by Boston, and what kind of poetic justice would that be if — all these years after selling Babe Ruth — the Red Sox get the modern version of him decades later? ESPN also noted that New Balance — Ohtani’s apparel sponsor — is based in Boston.
Los Angeles Angels: A return to Anaheim seems unlikely, but we would be remiss if we didn’t at least mention his former team.
Other teams rumored to be in the mix are the Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees, and Toronto Blue Jays. As we’ve learned in past free agencies with Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa, nothing is ever a sure thing until it is, so stay tuned to see who wins the Shohei Ohtani Sweepstakes.
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