Are the Dodgers really prepared to hand Shohei Ohtani a blank check?
Aaron Judge got $360 million. Trea Turner got $300 million. Xander Bogaerts got $280 million. Jacob deGrom got $185 million. Justin Verlander got $86 million over two years. Jose Abreu got nearly $60 million over three years. What in the WORLD is Shohei Ohtani going to get when he hits free agency next offseason?
If we’re to believe the rumors from the last few weeks, the Los Angeles Dodgers plan on saving their dough for the two-way star next November/December, but are they seriously willing to present him with a blank check?
Ohtani will be entering his age-29 season come 2024. All of the aforementioned top free agents were entering their age-30 seasons for 2023. The Japanese ace/slugger may not be repped by Scott Boras, but his eventual long-term deal being something of unforeseen magnitude was perhaps foreshadowed by the Angels agreeing to a $30 million salary to avoid arbitration with him in 2023.
Outside of a once-in-a-lifetime season interrupting Ohtani’s reign, he’s the undisputedmost valuable player in the sport. Aaron Judge’s 10.6 WAR effort, thanks to his top-25 offensive performance of all-time, was the only thing standing in Ohtani’s way from a second straight MVP award. Other than that, nobody can conceivably match Ohtani’s production.
There’s possibly no way to definitively put a price tag on him, which is why the Dodgers might be presented with a “blank check”-type situation. He’ll likely go to the highest bidder, and the bidding might reach never-before-seen territory.
The Dodgers chasing Shohei Ohtani next offseason will cost them an unimaginable amount of money
Look at Judge’s deal with the New York Yankees. It was nine years for $360 million, paying him a $40 million AAV. Not only did that reflect his 2022 AL MVP campaign, but it also took into account his marketing value to the franchise — Judge is the most recognized MLB player in the game and he’s an icon in New York, thus making him an international star.
Ohtani’s burst onto the MLB scene years ago, already as a ready-made international star. He was heralded as the “Japanese Babe Ruth.” He’s perhaps the next most recognized player in the league at this point, thanks to his back-to-back incredible years of hitting and pitching at the highest level.
His name, established stature, and playing style — something the game hasn’t seen in a century — all factor into his value. That’s how the game has evolved. You sign him, he puts more fans in the stands. He sells more merch. He brings more international viewers/supporters to your team. That’s all money. This won’t just be about Ohtani being a one-of-a-kind baseball talent.
The LA Times recently spoke to MLB executives to gauge the temperature here. Most figured Ohtani would land $400 million, and probably beat Mike Trout’s record-setting $426.5 million deal. Some wondered if Ohtani could fetch $500 million, which is probably the answer considering how the market is trending.
At the moment, it feels like the Dodgers would be willing to pay any price, especially with how they’ve set up their payroll for the foreseeable future. And if it comes down to a bidding war with the Giants? Good luck to San Fran. Should be a layup for LA if the Aaron Judge negotiations told us anything.