Uncovering the Possibilities of Shohei Ohtani’s Free Agency

Isaiah Williams
Staff Writer

Shohei Ohtani is officially a free agent, and there is no doubt that he will be signing one of the most lucrative deals in Major League Baseball history this offseason. The two-way All-Star is now the first two-time unanimous AL MVP. Last season, he hit 44 home runs, stole 20 bases, and posted a career-high .304 batting average. He was also elite on the mound, as he finished 2023 with a 3.14 and 167 strikeouts.

Ohtani is the first two-way baseball star since Babe Ruth and is the face of Major League Baseball. Many big market teams will be looking to splurge on the star player, as he will become the face of their franchise for the next decade. Being a fairly young free agent, teams are willing to give him top dollar, as he’s a player who can expand the team’s brand globally and attract tens of millions of dollars in ad revenue

There is one big question on everybody’s mind at this moment: how much is Shohei Ohtani worth? Teams have to take into account his recent injury, as he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in August. According to the orthopedic surgeon who performed the surgery, he will be ready to hit by the start of 2024, but he won’t be able to pitch next season. Teams seeking to sign Ohtani seem certain of his return as a two-way player in 2025, but they’ll wonder how long he’ll last as a pitcher since he’s undergone two elbow reconstructions within five years.

While many teams can afford a top-dollar contract, it’s believed that the teams Ohtani is most likely to sign with are the Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays, and Seattle Mariners.

Many different potential contract structures could make sense for Ohtani.

The first is a high-price, high-incentive contract. This would be a long-term contract with a fairly high minimum deal but can max out to a boatload of money depending on the level of play throughout each year and annual awards bonuses. These types of contracts contain a high floor and allow for flexibility for both Ohtani and the franchise based on his career progression. This contract would be fitting for a team like the Rangers who can offer a 10-year deal between $400 and $500 million with accolade bonuses stacked on for the first half. While they may have to pay Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Jacob deGrom over a quarter billion dollars from 2026 to 2028, joining a squad coming off of a World Series victory would be quite enticing for Ohtani. Similarly, the Blue Jays have become a surprise contender for Ohtani, and they will likely take the high-price, high-incentive approach as well.

Ohtani won the Player’s Association Most Outstanding DH in 2023 (Kyle Ross/USA Today Sports)

Some teams may approach him solely as a hitter, assuming that his pitching abilities would decline due to his injuries. Still, he is an elite power hitter coming off his best offensive season with a major league-best 1.066 OPS. Additionally, some major league insiders believe that he has enough athleticism to be an outfielder if his pitching career fizzles out. Since he has similar hitting stats as Aaron Judge, deals coming from this approach would be at least as much as Judge’s 9-year, $360 million deal. The Los Angeles Dodgers could offer a deal of this caliber, as they’re looking to beef up their lineup and potentially the starting rotation if Ohtani returns to last year’s form.

While highly unlikely, a short-term deal is not entirely off the table. This could be done so that he can maximize his earning potential and then look for a long-term deal afterward. This could work for a team like the Seattle Mariners, who could give him $50 to $60 million per year for five years. Still, according to MLB insiders, Ohtani prefers a long-term deal.

Ohtani is not expected to pitch until the 2025 season due to his UCL injury (Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

Then, of course, there’s simply the go big or go home approach. Ohtani boasts the most unique skillset that we’ve seen in the history of the MLB. He is a generational talent that could alter the very fabric of what it means to be a baseball superstar. While many serious suitors can feel confident about offering him incentives and bonuses, some teams can separate themselves from the pack by simply offering the traditional, fully guaranteed monstrosity of a contract. This suits a team like the New York Mets, whose luxury tax seems to be infinite. They could offer Ohtani more than $500 million for ten years. Also, it’s rumored that the Chicago Cubs have already offered him a $500 million long-term deal.

According to MLB Insiders, the Dodgers, Blue Jays, and Cubs have the best chance of landing Ohtani. Only time will tell what team he chooses, and no matter where he goes his decision will be one for the history books.

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