Angels have a Shohei Ohtani contract problem


Shohei Ohtani is currently the biggest bargain in MLB, a global phenomenon and unique superstar who’s doing things no one has ever done for $5 million, almost exactly the average salary in baseball. 

However, Ohtani is about to become a financial problem for the Angels, whose payroll is top heavy en route to becoming even top heavier if they are fortunate enough to extend the pitcher/DH who is a worldwide sensation. 

“If you’re the Angels, you have to sign Ohtani. But once you sign him, you can’t win,” proclaims one rival GM. 

It’s a conundrum for sure. Ohtani has enhanced the brand and posted a 9.0 WAR (in 2021) via MVP heroics on both sides of the ball. If he isn’t the best player in the game, he certainly is the biggest talent, and also the most remarkable. Yet, the team isn’t in playoff position again, and raising Ohtani’s pay by tenfold wouldn’t help balance out a team already short on pitching and depth. 

The Angels floated a record annual salary in informal talks before the season, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported. However, word is, Ohtani, only 27, is looking for a very long deal. And this wasn’t it. 

One rival executive said he believes there are likely many teams that would pay him about $200 million for four years. Teams prefer not to go too deep into the 30s now, but if there’s a feeling Ohtani’s double duty may wear him down earlier than normal, that’s nothing more than a guess. 

Los Angeles Angels DH Shohei Ohtani #17 reacts after he strikes out swinging
Shohei Ohtani’s contract may be team friendly for now, but his next one may be prohibitive for the Angels.
Robert Sabo

The Angels have profited off Ohtani’s immense popularity, thanks to marketing and commercial opportunities including signage throughout Angel Stadium and of course extra tickets sold to fans who come to see the two-way phenom. The franchise value that’s risen more than most other teams may be partly attributable to him, too. 

Meantime, there is no comp for Ohtani, and even if you say Babe Ruth, he only pitched and hit simultaneously one season, and beyond that his $80,000 salary is unhelpful in this exercise. 

There is also the idea to add up modern day hitting and pitching comps (i.e. DH JD Martinez plus starter Robbie Ray) — say $22 million worth plus $22 million. And throw in a guesstimated $15 million for marketing. (The Angels, unsurprisingly, won’t reveal what they make there.) 

That would make him a $60 million player, and if that’s the number, the team that’s played only three playoff games in a decade would be up to $130 million for three players, counting Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, equal to an average 26-man MLB payroll. 

Ohtani, a free agent after 2023, has never seemed about money as he came here long before he could become a free agent (though he’s believed to make $10million-$20 million off the field now), and there’s no reason to think he doesn’t love the Angels, who wisely have let him fulfill his dream to be the best two-way player ever. No one is quite sure how driven he will be to earn market value — whatever that is. 

“We’ll find out,” said Angels GM Perry Minasian, in what is the closest to a hint they will try again to keep him long term. 

Of course, why wouldn’t they? 

“We like everything about him,” said Minasian, who worked out the super beneficial two-year deal for $8 million through this year following Ohtani’s rough 2020 pandemic season. “He’s what you’d want the place to be about. … He’s awesome. He shows up to play every day, and he loves to win.” 

Hopefully, they can find a way to pull off that difficult double by signing Ohtani and still building a winner.

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