At the start of this MLB season, we wrote about Shohei Ohtani’s impending free agency. The Los Angeles Angels star debuted in the Major Leagues in 2018, winning American League Rookie of the Year in his first season. He’s continued his hot play ever since, winning AL MVP in 2021 and finishing second in 2022. He’s also an MVP candidate this season.
Ohtani is unlike just about every baseball player before him. He’s a pitcher AND a designated hitter, excelling at both. Just look at this recent performance: Ohtani struck out 10 batters in 6 1/3 innings, giving up only one run. At the plate, he homered twice. He currently leads the majors in home runs!
This type of impressive play has become the norm for Ohtani. As he hits the free agent market after this season, it very well could lead to a record-setting contract — even bigger than we first anticipated.
As in most sports, baseball contracts have risen in value over the past five to ten years. When Alex Rodriguez signed a ten-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers in 2001, it was a huge, unheard-of deal.
That remained the largest contract in terms of total value until 2015. That year, Giancarlo Stanton signed a 13-year, $325 million deal with the Miami Marlins; the team later traded him to the New York Yankees. Since the 2015 season, 13 other players have signed deals greater than A-Rod’s, with 11 of those contracts worth $300 million or more in total value.
The largest contract ever belongs to Ohtani’s teammate, outfielder Mike Trout. He inked a 12-year, $426.5 million extension with the Angels that began in 2019. As far as average annual value, Aaron Judge’s 9-year, $360 million deal ($40 million per year) is tops on the list.
Ohtani will likely surpass both with room to spare. Few players pitch as well as he does, and few players hit as consistently with the power that he has. He performs both parts of the game incredibly well. A contract that reaches — or surpasses — $50 million per year isn’t out of the question. And though we’ve only seen 19 contracts of at least ten years in MLB history, teams will want to secure Ohtani for the long term. A 12-year, $600 million deal could be within reach.
One other wrinkle: As of this writing, the Angels are in the postseason. That’s never happened in Ohtani’s career. If he can put up a dominating playoff run on top of his strong regular season performance? That would only add to the intrigue — and likely to his bank account, too.
We’ll see how the rest of the year plays out and what Ohtani ultimately ends up earning. For now, let’s enjoy the magic on the field.
Just How High Can Shohei Ohtani’s Next Contract Go?
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