Shohei Ohtani contract projection: How star could set MLB record with $550-$600 million free-agency deal

Every year, there is a new name that is the best batter in the free agency. There’s always a best pitcher. And there’s some stars whose marketability makes them a big financial boon for any that sign him.

Shohei Ohtani checks all three boxes — when healthy. Though he won’t be pitching at all in 2024, Ohtani’s talents make him an incomparable free agent. There aren’t any previous contracts that can be used as precedent setting. On top of all that, his camp has been notoriously quiet, so until pen is put to paper, it’s unlikely many will know exactly what — or with whom — he is seeking to sign.

There is a strong chance Ohtani winds up signing at this year’s winter meetings, which could set off a chain reaction across the league. The team that signs him will be making a heavy investment in the star phenom, and that should have an impact both on how much more that team can spend as well as how the runners up for Ohtani will choose to target after missing out on the sport’s biggest stars.

What could Ohtani’s contract wind up looking like? Here’s a look at the reports on what could make sense for the two-way phenom.

MORE: Here are the biggest contracts in sports history

Shohei Ohtani contract projection

There are many unknowns about Ohtani. Some have speculated his deal could be a one-year contract as he waits for his pitching arm to heal so he can head into free agency again and sign a larger deal as a healthy pitcher. Others have speculated opt-outs in a large deal.

While the language and specifics aren’t known on what a deal for him could look like, there is at least some clarity starting to build on the length and dollar amount for the contract. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported the contract given to Ohtani is expected to be a larger, multi-year deal that is said to be at least $550 million and could reach $600 million.

Addressing the concerns his arm health might have on his market, Passan reported any other player might have had issues signing the massive deal. But Ohtani’s two-way talents and his international star power make him “an all-time free agent” and “transcend the sort of uncertainty that would waylay anyone else’s free agency.”

But what would that mean in terms of contract length? Ohtani is certainly not going to sign a deal that has him below anyone in terms of average annual value. Currently, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are tied for that distinction with an AAV of $43.3 million. Aaron Judge’s AAV of $40 million is the highest for a position player.

The longest contract in MLB history is the 14-year deal signed to Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. However, he was only 22 years old when he inked the deal. Ohtani is 29, and will turn 30 in July. The longest contract signed to a player 29 or older is a three-way tie between Manny Machado (30), Trea Turner (29) and Xander Bogaerts (30), which is 11 years.

Here’s how the AAV (in millions) would shake up based on contract lengths:

  $550M $560M $570M $580M $590M $600M
8 $68.75 $70.00 $71.25 $72.50 $73.75 $75.00
9 $61.11 $62.22 $63.33 $64.44 $65.56 $66.67
10 $55.00 $56.00 $57.00 $58.00 $59.00 $60.00
11 $50.00 $50.91 $51.82 $52.73 $53.64 $54.55
12 $45.83 $46.67 $47.50 $48.33 $49.17 $50.00

All of those AAVs would set the record and make him the highest-paid player in the sport by average annual value and contract size. Given his age, it would certainly seem unlikely any team would give him a deal that signs him for as long as Tatis.

MORE: What Shohei Ohtani’s torn UCL means for MLB pitching future

Shohei Ohtani contract timeline

Passan reported Ohtani’s timeline is “barreling toward the finish line,” and it has been widely expected he will be the star of the winter meetings show. That would mean signing within the next few days.

And that is not the first time it’s been reported Ohtani will have things wrapped up by Dec. 6. The New York Post’s Jon Heyman had reported on Nov. 29 the “prevailing opinion” across the league is that he will sign during the winter meetings, and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand had also reported he believed Ohtani would ink a deal during the winter meetings, per MLB.com.

Highest-paid MLB players

Overall value

Player Signed Team Length Value
Mike Trout Angels 12 $426.5 million
Mookie Betts Dodgers 12 $365 million
Aaron Judge Yankees 9 $360 million
Manny Machado Padres 11 $350 million
Francisco Lindor Mets 10 $341 million
Fernando Tatis Jr. Padres 14 $340 million
Bryce Harper Phillies 13 $330 million
Giancarlo Stanton Marlins 13 $325 million
Corey Seager Rangers 10 $325 million
Gerrit Cole Yankees 9 $324 million

Average annual value

Player Signed Team Length Value
Max Scherzer Mets 3 $43.3 million
Justin Verlander Mets 2 $43.3 million
Aaron Judge Yankees 9 $40 million
Jacob deGrom Rangers 5 $37 million
Gerrit Cole Yankees 9 $36 million
Mike Trout Angels 12 $35.5 million
Carlos Correa Twins 3 $35.1 million
Anthony Rendon Angels 7 $35 million
Stephen Strasburg Nationals 7 $35 million
Zack Greinke Diamondbacks 6 $34.4 million

Biggest contracts in North American sports history

Overall value

Athlete Team Years Value
Lionel Messi FC Barcelona 4 $674 million
Karim Benzema Al Ittihad 3 $643 million
Patrick Mahomes Chiefs 10 $503 million
Mike Trout Angels 12 $426.5 million
Canelo Álvarez DAZN 5 $365 million
Mookie Betts Dodgers 12 $365 million
Aaron Judge Yankees 9 $360 million
Manny Machado Padres 11 $350 million
Francisco Lindor Mets 10 $341 million
Fernando Tatís Jr. Padres 14 $340 million

Average annual value

Athlete Team Years AAV
Karim Benzema Al Ittihad 3 $214 million
Cristiano Ronaldo Al Nassr 2.5 $213 million
Lionel Messi FC Barcelona 4 $168.5 million
Canelo Álvarez DAZN 5 $73 million
Damian Lillard Trail Blazers 2 $60.9 million
Anthony Davis Lakers 3 $59 million
Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks 3 $59 million
Jaylen Brown Celtics 5 $57.7 million
Devin Booker Suns 4 $55.7 million
Karl-Anthony Towns Timberwolves 4 $55.6 million

Source : ESPN.com

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