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Shohei Ohtani Is Unlike Anything We've Seen; What's Next For The MLB Superstar?

The MLB's version of a Unicorn is set to be a free agent this year. This means he'll finally be able to demand however much money he wants. Shohei Ohtani got to do this previously when he came over from Japan initially, but the price tag was far from what it will be this year. Before this season, where Ohtani and the Angels got to a 30-million-dollar extension, Ohtani had never made over nine million in a single season. Now, he'll be able to set the market in a way we have never seen before.


Won't This Be Like Any Other Major Contract?

Typically, we know what players are going to get in free agency. The 300 million marker being crossed multiple times now means nothing much, as any team desperate enough for an all-star will pay it. However, Ohtani is different.


Baseball is the most team-oriented sport possible. A pitcher can throw a no-hitter, and if his team can't score, they'll lose, also vice versa, where if a team puts up eight runs, but the pitchers collapse, they can still lose. No single player can win you games. Not even Mike Trout, who had been the most talented and best MLB player for the past decade, could do it. He has been to the playoffs one time ever and lost.


Ohtani, however, can (theoretically) win baseball games himself. If he were to start a game n the mound and dominate the opposing team, then go to the plate and score a run, he'd be able to do it alone. I'd assume this won't happen for a while, for Ohtani's sake, but what makes it so crazy is that it is possible, no matter how unlikely.


So, due to the insane nature of Ohtani himself, he could end up seeing nearly twice as much annually because of his ability on both sides of the player. Ohtani is two elite players wrapped in one. So, when you're paying for two elite players, it costs more than just one.



So How Much Will The Pitching Part Cost?

As I previously mentioned, we have to look at Ohtani as two separate players to see the price value. So let's start with the pitching aspect.

For comparison purposes, Justin Verlander is currently tied with Max Scherzer as the highest annually paid pitcher in the MLB. Verlander was handed an insane 43 million dollars annually by the New York Mets after his Cy Young award-winning season in 2022. Setting the market, we can look at and reasonably compare the two.

With the World Series-winning Astros supporting him, Verlander went 18-4 (Astros went 106-56) with a 1.75 ERA on his way to the Cy Young. This year, Ohtani is 9-4 (Angels currently 56-51) with a 3.43 ERA heading into this off-season. Verlander's team was far better, which, when your pitcher gets run support, makes a huge difference mentally and on the record books. While Ohtani is nowhere near one of the greatest single seasons of all time, there are a few exciting things to note in the comparison.

Ohtani's H/9, which measures how many hits a pitcher gives up per every nine innings pitched, is lower than Verlander's, barely at 5.9. Ohtani's strike-out percentage is also higher; while Verlander struck out just under 28% of batters he faced, Ohtani is striking out just under 32% of batters he faces.

I'm not saying he will get 43 million a year solely as a pitcher. Verlander had a legendary ERA, and Whip was consistent with GOAT levels. But, due to being relatively close outside of it and a whopping 11 years younger, it is still reasonable we can see Ohtani receive a massive payday for his arm.

Projected Pitcher Cost: 36-37 Million

So How Much Would Ohtani The Hitter Cost?

Considering we used the highest-paid pitcher annually, that got signed last year, let's repeat this with batters and use 2022 Aaron Judge. Judge had a historic season, after which he earned a 40-million-dollar yearly contract to stay with the Yankees. Let's see how Ohtani this year stacks up.

Judge broke the record for home runs in the American League last year with 62 in 696 at-bats. Ohtani currently has 39 home runs in a total of 472 at-bats. This puts them within 0.01 of each other in terms of home runs. Judge, however, had 131 RBIs (Yankees had +237 run differential as a whole) while Ohtani has 81 (Angels have +28 run differential as a whole) so far this season. While Judge put more runs on the board, he also had a far better situation in terms of other batters getting on base in front of him and helping him get them home.

Judge's season was otherworldly and something we didn't expect to see again for long. But we are. While Judge vigorously has Ohtani beaten in walks, they are comparable in every other stat, with Ohtani even beating Judge in triples. The seasons by Judge in 2022 and Ohtani in 2023 are similar to the rest of the MLB. Both players led or are leading the American League in home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+. While Judge did lead the AL in walks and runs, Ohtani also leads in triples while simultaneously pitching.


Regardless, Judge's 2022 season was historic and nearly impossible to compete with, but Shohei is somehow doing it. So while I don't think he'd quite get the same amount, given Ohtani is two years younger than Judge when he had the season, he'll get damn close.

Projected Batter Cost: 37-38 Million

So What Will It Take To Bring In Ohtani?

Due to Ohtani being so unique on both sides of the ball while simultaneously being elite at them, he can demand more than we have ever seen. He is also only 28 years old, which means, realistically, a ten-year contract is on the table. Ohtani could be looking at a valuation of around 70-72 million dollars per year, and we could see the first 400, 500, or even 600-million-dollar contract in sports.

The only teams that would be able to afford this are the big markets; your New York and LA teams stand out. But also, a team like San Francisco and Boston could make the insane push if needed. Regardless of where he goes, he will break records in the game and for how much you get paid for it.



 

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