Two-way star Shohei Ohtani underwent elbow surgery on Monday. With his impending free agency, let’s look at how his next contract might look.
The Angels released this statement on Shohei Ohtani and the procedure he had this morning. pic.twitter.com/Y3Bpo2VFOg
— Sam Blum (@SamBlum3) September 19, 2023
Ohtani’s Last Three Years: The Best in History?
There’s little doubt that Ohtani is one of the most unique players in baseball history. But Unique doesn’t entirely cover it. What Ohtani has done as a pitcher and a DH has been the greatest three-year stretch of any player in MLB history. Ohtani ranks second in baseball as a hitter with a .964 OPS since 2021. As a pitcher, he ranks 6th in ERA (2.86) and 3rd in strikeouts per nine innings (11.39). In typical counting stats, Ohtani has hit the third most home runs in the league (124) and allowed just 47 home runs in those three years. He’s a particular player on both sides of the diamond. This year, he’s almost guaranteed to lead baseball in OPS, his third straight season in the top 10. Ohtani’s contract will have to account for his dominance on both sides of the game.
Ohtani’s Offensive Value
To break down the possible Ohtani contract in the coming months, it’s helpful to look at the market around him. Even though he’s such a unique player, there are recent comparisons that can be drawn. Last season, it took Aaron Judge setting an American League home run record to stop Ohtani from winning a second MVP award. That offseason, Judge earned a 9-year, $360 million contract with the New York Yankees. Ohtani leaves the Los Angeles Angels after putting up slightly worse numbers in his walk year. However, with Judge at the top of the market for true power hitters, he is the best accurate comparison. Over the last three seasons before their respective contracts, Ohtani has the edge over Judge in every counting stat, including plate appearances and games played. Despite the advantage in numbers, there are a few caveats. First, Judge’s numbers include the shortened 2020 season. Ohtani also has a higher workload overall and has not had nearly the same lineup protection compared to Judge during his time with the Angels. With all this in mind, Ohtani’s likely value is somewhere in the $300-330 million range over a presumed ten-year contract based on hitting alone.
Ohtani’s Pitching Value
Ohtani’s contract situation is unique because he’s not just a hitter. Ohtani is a legitimate ace on the mound that would improve every team’s rotation immensely. But who is his closest comparison? Arguably, it’s Jacob deGrom. deGrom is one of the single most dominant pitchers of the era. He’s also injury-prone and has had multiple elbow reconstructions. Last offseason, deGrom signed a five-year, $185 million contract with the Texas Rangers. He made six starts before succumbing to another elbow injury and had Tommy John surgery in June. Ohtani has been ruled out from pitching in 2024, meaning a ten-year commitment would only be nine for his arm. With his elite stuff and high strikeout numbers, Ohtani is near the top of the market, but the record-setting yearly salary of $43.33 million (for Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander) is likely too pricy. Pricing Ohtani’s mound value at $35 million per year, slightly lower than deGrom, is a solid bet.
Ohtani’s contract will be a record-setter regardless of the final numbers. If we assume a ten-year contract and add the two values together, Ohtani will make upwards of $55 million annually, leading to a final deal around the $600 million mark. However, with his injury history and slightly advanced age (he’ll turn 30 in 2024), a more conservative estimate is around $50 million per year at eight years, leading to a contract that will set the MLB record. Regardless, it’s clear that the Ohtani contract will be the storyline of the offseason, and wherever he lands, that club will have paid a pretty penny to land him.
Main Photo Credits: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports