It’s been a winter of big and quick spending, and the contract records keep falling.
1. Aaron Judge set the record for a position player contract at $360M.
2. Trea Turner likely set the free-agent record for leaving money on the table at $42M when he turned down the Padres’ $342M offer and took the $300M deal from the Phillies.
3. And if not Turner, then perhaps it was Judge who set that record for a declined deal, when he accepted the Yankees’ $360M deal after the Padres made clear they would have topped $400M.
4. Xander Bogaerts set the record for a contract after exercising an opt-out, at $280M with the Padres.
5. That was before Carlos Correa topped him — not once but twice.
6. Correa originally set the contractual record for a shortstop at $350M with the Giants, before that deal was scuttled for whatever reason, and when he agreed with the Mets at $315 million, he had set the record for agreeing to two contracts in one winter, at $665M.
7. Masataka Yoshida set the record for a Japanese free agent at $90M.
It was all great fun for baseball, which is obviously thriving like never before. But the really big deal is coming next winter, when two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani hits the open market. Ohtani has never been about money, but he’s made enough for his otherwise beleaguered employer, and it’s time for him to be paid his true value.
How high will it go? Hard to say, but I polled nine agents — not his own — to find out, and here are the responses.
Agent A: “He will definitely beat Trout, and you have to go from there.” (Mike Trout signed a 12-year, $426.5M deal)
Agent B: “Should get $400M-plus to a winner.”
Agent C: “$430 [million] to $440 over 10 years.”
Agent D: “10 times 45 [million]”
Agent E: “I think he goes to $500M or so, probably 12 years.”
Agent F: “$500M for 13/14 [years]— $250M per position”
Agent G: “475 [million]to 525 over 13 seasons.”
Agent H: “11 times 50 = $550M. Sounds crazy but he has the ability to consistently be a 9/10 WAR player.”
Agent I: “It sure seems like something that starts with a 5 in front of it.”
Word is Ohtani will indeed shoot for $500M plus, and who would blame him? He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, and also one of the best hitters, and as a bonus, might be tied for the fastest guy on his team (that would be with Trout).
Better yet, Ohtani is more than a player, he’s a phenomenon — maybe the greatest talent and draw ever. He’s that rare player who sells signage and brings sponsorships. As a friend put it, he’s a “superstar in two countries.”
One would assume any big-market team would want him. It feels like the Dodgers are working to get below some tax thresholds to set themselves up for a huge winter next year, and they’ve seen up close how he (and Trout) have kept their cross-freeway neighbors from completely folding. The Angels should have new owners by then. And of course the Mets, Phillies and Padres are in it only to win games and enhance the fan experience.
The one little caveat is that at least some got the impression the first time he was a free agent five years ago that Ohtani preferred to stay away from the biggest markets. If that still holds true, that could affect the final price. But not too much. I see Ohtani’s soon-to-be record contract beginning with a 5, too.