If former MLB GM Jim Bowden is correct in projecting the baseline of Shohei Ohtani's next contract, then his value isn't plummeting, per se, but it's taken a clear hit from pre-injury valuations.
Ohtani's stunning UCL tear, following a previous Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1, 2018, marked a second traumatic elbow event in a five-year span. Typically, regaining the ability to pitch at a high level is more difficult after the second rehab cycle. Ohtani, an all-time freakish athlete, isn't someone you'll make a lot of money betting against, but ... his offensive prowess and differing foci make him a particularly tough prediction moving forward. At the very least, he will not be pitching in 2024, the first year of his massive long-term contract.
At the time of the injury, evaluators were hesitant to admit the face of the game's value might be somewhat diminished. Ohtani will always be a singular force, but the expectations that the market would pay the same value for so much uncertainty (and a lost year on the mound) never completely added up.
That's why, after discussions of $550 million and dreams of $600 million, it feels slightly more reasonable to see Bowden's new projection: a 10-year, $477 million deal packed with incentives, escalators, and invisible whoozits to help fill in the rest of the gap if Ohtani fulfills his promise.
Dodgers Rumors: Shohei Ohtani projected contract below $500 million?
Dang. If Ohtani had only known his midsummer injury would knock his value below $550 million, he never would've torn that ligament in the first place!
The length of this contract remains reasonable, too. No Padres shenanigans with 14 years' worth of guarantees just to make the AAV more manageable. It's 10 years at $47 million per, though the number of seasons he'll spend on the mound cannot be quantified right now.
If Aaron Judge makes $40 million per year and is already in his 30s, does Ohtani, a 29-year-old and the only player who can claim offensive superiority to Judge, deserve an extra $7 million? Considering that sum also includes a semi-risky bet on Ohtani's return to the rubber, it seems like he almost certainly does (and, if he returns to ace form, $7 million will be a steal).
The Dodgers still seem like the front-runners in this chase, but like many Clayton Kershaw proceedings in recent years, the American League champion Rangers simply cannot be discounted. Bowden also opened the door to the Mariners, Mets, Red Sox, Padres, Giants, Cubs, Phillies and Blue Jays.
Of course, that's just a list of "best fits." At this rate, every lineup is a fairly excellent fit for the game's preeminent superstar. Now, it's up to the market to dictate those teams' varying comfort levels with what's sure to be a not-so-huge-but-still-extremely-hefty cost.