It’s anticipated to be the biggest free agency in the history of the MLB.
Shohei Ontani is one of modern Major League Baseball’s most dynamic players and his contract with the Los Angeles Angels will expire at the end of this season.
If he ends up swinging for someone else, the free agency deal could be eyewatering, record-breaking even.
So, Ohtani hangs up the mitts with the Halos at the end of 2023, who could win him over? How long will the contract be? How much will they have to pay him? ESPN took a stab at it.
How does $600M USD sound?
That’s of the loftier predictions presented by the sports news outlet, based on over a dozen responses. Their predictions ranged from as little as four years to as many as 13 years with values ranging from $240M up to an awesome $605M.
Under $500M USD
There were six respondents who said that a future contract would be less than $500M. These vary from four years at $240M, right up to an range of almost 12 – 13 years at a value of between $475M – $492M.
$500 – $549M USD
This is where most respondents’ (14) predictions ranged. These ranged from around a decade-long contract (9 – 10 years) worth $500M, right up to $528M across 12 years.
To the moon
The remaining six respondents predicted that Ohtani’s future contract would be worth between $550M and $605M. These massive sums would carry across a contract of a decade or just slightly more (12 years).
Some serious money ball
Ohtani would certainly have to maintain and exceed expectations for him to be paid any of these sums from season to season.
ESPN took the first 23 responses and found that it would average out as an 11-year contract at $524.3M total, along with an Average Annual Value of $47.5M.
For those massive $600M deals, of which there are two;
A: $600M over 12 years (AAV of $50M)
B: $605M at 11 years(AAV of $55M)
Some respondents backing up their predictions said that these hefty sums would have to paid either on escalation or vesting options or even bonuses subject to performance.
Another element which may come up in a potential new contract with X team is flexibility, flexibility both for the team and Ohtani.
For the team
One of the respondents suggested that if it was an eight-year contract totalling $400M, five years could be guaranteed at $60M AAV and the remaining three would option years which help the team.
They could build in a backstop where they can pay $33M if the player declines or gets hurt.
A deal like this would offer him the flexibility to chase after new offers from other teams if he hits their expectations or if salaries start to increase.
Uniqueness of the Free Agency
Ohtani is a two-way player. That means he excels in both offensive and defensive sides of the game, pitching and batting.
Prior to Ohtani in 2021, Babe Ruth was the previous two-way player, having pitched 100 innings and taken the plate 200 times in a single season.
Today, a two-way player is a classification given to an MLB player with 20 or more innings pitched and has appeared in 20 or more games in a position or as the Designated Hitter. They will have also made 3 plate appearances in those 20 games.
That’s helpful because?
As one executive offering their prediction told ESPN, Ohtani’s free agency prospect and his two-way skills, offers a team two players for the price of one, ‘two different $35 million-a-year players’.
That means that any concocted value to Ohtani will need to be more unique than the usual factors of age, athleticism and performance which are used to size up players’ value.
Big name players sell tickets, sponsorships and rights deals, so the team that is able to broker a future deal with him, would certainly get a Return On Investment.
However, being that he’s a two-way player and there’s a lot more expected, that does increase the risk level for a team that would welcome a two-in-one. He’s still human and susceptible to injury.
Could he stay at Halos?
Could he just return to the Angels? Well yes, they could thrash out another deal and Ohtani will sit pretty.
Ohtani currently sits on $30M this season, the third highest player payroll and just behind Mike Trout (13.93). That’s therefore part of the Angels’ $215M 2023 finances.
But how will Halos do in the season? Will they reach Playoffs? Will they reach the World Series? Will they win?
If the historic deal comes, here’s a couple of the potential suitors who could vie for the Ohtani magic on their roster.
Where could he land next?
While too early to project, six of ESPN’s respondents referenced these three teams as landing spots. One even suggested that the third team on the following list would be the ideal if he were to leave Angels.
New York Mets
The biggest fish who could go after Ohtani, is the New York Mets. They spent almost $500M on free agents in the 2022 offseason last December.
Among the big-name signings were RHP Justin Verlander on a two-year contract worth $86.6M ($43.3M AAV). That contract has a $35.5M vesting option for 2025.
Then there’s the OHF Brandon Nimmo on an eight-year $162M contract. That was effectively an extension after his previous 12-year contract expired.
Will Mets have the money to spent on such a large contract?
New York Yankees
Then there’s the New York Yankees. The Yankees clearly have the money given the recent renewal of their contract with their MVP winning Centerfielder Aaron Judge.
He’s recently signed on for another nine years, worth a total $360M ($40M AAV).
Again, will the Yankees have the money for such a huge contract? Is there space for both Judge and Ohtani to exist?
Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodgers had a very quiet 2022 offseason with mostly short-term contracts.
These varied from the one-year $1.1M contract for RP Alex Reyes, to the one-year $10M contract with OF/DH J.D. Martinez and SP Clayton Kershaw’s one-year $20M deal.
If you explore performance of the Dodgers solely, they’ve been in consecutive Playoffs since 2013, even winning the World Series in 2020.
That could be a selling-factor given that Angels have missed the Playoffs since 2015.
Who to beat?
Mike Trout has a 12-year contract worth $430M, that he signed in 2019. Many of the respondents EPSN asked would say that this would a target sum for Ohtani to beat.
Then again, there’s Max Scherzer’s three-year deal with the Mets worth $130M. When he signed the deal in the 2021/22 offseason, it gave him the highest AAV of $43.3M.
So, is the idea of a $600M deal out of the realms of possibility?
If you account for contract lengths like Fernando Tatis’ 14-year extension with the San Diego Padres or the 13-year free-agent deal which Bryce Harper signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, then couple that with AAV benchmarks like Scherzer’s and Trout’s, you are close to the $600M+ figure.
Can the exceptional talents of Shohei Ohtani merit a $600M+ sum across a decade or more?